The social upheavals of the sixties saw the emergence of a worldwide youth culture which rejected the money, power and status that defined the value system of its parents’ generation.
The ’60s also saw the rejection by some of traditional Christian religious ideas, leading to the introduction of Eastern thinking about spiritual development.
The radicalism manifested by the counter-culture of the hippies saw drugs becoming identified with social change. This spread the recreational use of cannabis and other drugs, particularly new semi-synthetic drugs such as LSD.
Drugs influenced the music, artwork and movies of the decade. For example, bands such as The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Deep Purple, The Who, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. Here’s Jefferson Airplane with White Rabbit:
The influence of the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in 1969 was heard around the world… including Torquay.
In early 1969 Torbay’s Police issued a statement saying they were keeping an eye on “local hippies”. A Paignton chemist had been burgled and a large amount of drugs was stolen, it was assumed for resale. South Devon’s pub landlords had also been warned to be on the lookout for anyone smoking “oddly shaped cigarettes”.
Since the mid-60s, Torquay’s main hippie pub had been the Rising Sun on Belgrave Road (now the Old Mill). At 9.30pm on April 12, 1969 around 70 members of the Torbay Drugs Squad and other officers made a drugs raid with a warrant to search anyone.
This was the first raid of its kind in Torbay.
Some 17 people were arrested – 16 for possession under the Dangerous Drugs Act and one for willfully obstructing Police Constable James Copeland.
The Police had split into groups, each with the task of entering a different bar in the crowded pub. Using a megaphone, the Police ordered all the men to either put their hands on their heads or lapels and the women to cross their arms.
Twenty-year-old John Buchan Smith of Teignmouth Road refused to put his hands on his head and told the Police: “This is silly… if you want them raised, you can raise them… you can’t mess me about like this. I want to see a higher authority”. He then used ‘bad language’. An Inspector Anderson issued the order, “Take that one out” and Smith was arrested.
Smith denied he refused to be searched and his defence Hamish Turner said he had been given contradictory orders by the Police.
Though Smith had no trace of drugs on him, he did have three previous convictions for allowing premises to be used for the smoking of cannabis. The presiding magistrate described refusing to cooperate with the Police as a “serious offence” and Smith was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
The raid was entirely successful. From April 12, 1969 to today it has been impossible to buy or consume any illegal drugs in Torquay… (just joking)