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Santa Cruz, California is a modest town about 70 miles south of San Francisco very best identified for its killer cold-water surf break, the good quality of the nearby cannabis, and a University of California campus with a longstanding counterculture reputation.

Considering the fact that 2008, UC Santa Cruz has been dwelling to the official Grateful Dead archives (donated by the band). And now the Specific Collections division at UCSC’s McHenry Library hosts a new archive of uncommon supplies associated to legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

The Hunter Thompson archive was donated by Eric Shoaf, dean of the academic library at Queens University in Charlotte. Shoaf amassed his collection though compiling Gonzology, an HST bibliography that he published final year. Anybody who’s interested can merely show up at McHenry Library throughout operating hours and make a request to see something in the collection. (Whilst you wait for them to pull your supplies, head downstairs and verify out a modest Grateful Dead museum, exactly where artifacts ranging from old concert tickets to formal meeting notes are artfully displayed.)

Personally, I’ve extended been fascinated by Hunter Thompson, so it was a sincere thrill to flip by means of boxes of material and discover an original November 1971 edition of Rolling Stone, the challenge in which Worry and Loathing in Las Vegas was initial serialized alongside Ralph Steadman’s iconic illustrations. I even identified myself chuckling audibly though reading The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved in an old copy of Scanlon’s magazine, a a great deal mythologized story the author viewed as his initial perform in the “gonzo” style.

(The Thompson Estate)

But what truly floored me have been 4 “Wall Posters” (22” x 15”) published in assistance of Hunter Thompson’s legendary 1970 campaign for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado.

In the tradition of Thomas Paine’s Widespread Sense, these campaign broadsides mixed original artwork (which includes the campaign’s logo, a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button) with slogans like “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon” and a choice of satirical articles that harnessed Thompson’s trademark mix of humor and venom to get in touch with out—by name—corruption and malfeasance amongst the nearby energy elite.

Fifty years ago, in that epic campaign, Hunter Thompson named for cannabis legalization, aggressive environmental protection, and an finish to abusive policing and corruption in government.

We need to have listened.

The Battle of Aspen

Aspen in 1970 (Wikimedia Inventive Commons)

As time went on, Hunter Thompson’s reputation as a bigger-than-life celebrity celebration legend would sometimes overshadow his extraordinary talent as a writer. Like the time in Zaire when he smoked so a great deal “black, grainy East African weed” that he neglected to essentially cover the Ali-Forman fight. Or the time he just about accidentally drowned Bill Murray by duct taping him to a lawn chair and throwing him in a pool to see if he could make a Houdini-esque escape.

But possibly his greatest and most outlandish drug-fueled prank was also his most critical and sober try to alter the planet for the superior.

But possibly his greatest and most outlandish drug-fueled prank was also his most critical and sober try to alter the planet for the superior.

Back in 1967, Thompson made use of his initial royalty verify from Hell’s Angels to invest in a modest cabin in the wilderness outdoors Aspen, Colorado exactly where he would reside till he committed suicide there in 2005. Currently a magnet for writers, artists, thinkers and misfits, Aspen presented a bucolic refuge from the chaos of his reporting life.

Sadly, just about right away building started on a slag heap bordering his house. And the nearby authorities have been actual reactionaries. When an influx of hippies ascended upon Aspen to take jobs as cooks and ski instructors or merely to bum about town, the sheriff’s division started a campaign of heavy-handed repression against them, which includes allegations of false arrest and police brutality.

A single afternoon the Sheriff’s division showed up at Aspen Higher College and searched each and every locker for weed primarily based on an anonymous tip. Sheriff Whitmire himself, in a ten-gallon hat, with a pistol strapped to his hip, and a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, went by means of the girls’ purses, but identified no contraband.

This open harassment of young persons and “undesirables” would continue till a 29-year old lawyer named Joe Edwards filed the initial civil rights case in Colorado history against the Aspen Police Division for discriminatory enforcement of ordinances that prohibited vagrancy, hitchhiking, trespassing, and blocking the sidewalk. Edwards’s eventual victory in the case created him an immediate hero amongst the nearby counterculture.

It will be the basic philosophy of the Sheriff’s workplace that no drug worth taking need to be sold for income.

Hunter S. Thompson

Then late 1 evening Edwards answered the telephone, and Hunter Thompson was on the other finish, speaking him into operating for mayor. They would construct upon his current constituency of freaks by creating a principled stand against out-of-manage land improvement offers that have been wrecking the atmosphere, making an reasonably priced housing crisis, and transferring an inordinate quantity of wealth and political energy from the nearby neighborhood to a class of higher-finish grifters Thompson termed greed heads.

Eventually, the Edwards for Mayor campaign fell six votes quick, but it gave rise to an enduring Freak Energy movement that pushed an even a lot more outlandish candidate in 1970—Hunter S. Thompson for Sheriff of Pitkin County.

They even shot a campaign ad, featuring their candidate riding a motorcycle by means of the mountains more than the following narration:

“Hunter represents anything wholly alien to the other candidates for Sheriff: concepts. And a sympathy towards the young, generous, grass-oriented society which is creating the only critical work to face the technological nightmare we’ve produced.”

“A Special and Pretty Human Ambiance”

Hunter S Thompson Interview, 1970 (AP)

According to the fantastic book Freak Energy: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff, chief amongst the candidate’s campaign promises was ripping up the streets and sodding them, altering the name of Aspen to Fat City to “prevent greed heads and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name,” disarming the sheriff’s division, aggressively pursuing shady land developers and other environmental despoilers, and taking a public-wellness, harm-reduction-oriented method to drug law enforcement so weird that it will have to be associated in its personal words.

“My initial act as sheriff will be to set up on the courthouse lawn a platform and a set of stocks in order to punish dishonest dope dealers in a suitable public fashion… It will be the basic philosophy of the Sheriff’s workplace that no drug worth taking need to be sold for income. This will establish a distinctive and incredibly human ambiance in the Aspen (or Fat City) drug culture, which is currently so a great deal a aspect of our nearby reality that only a fualangist lunatic would speak about attempting to “eliminate it.”

So the only realistic method is to make life in this town incredibly ugly for all profiteers—in drugs and all other fields.”

In his public debate against Sheriff Whitmire, Hunter Thompson was asked if he believed cannabis possession need to stay a felony for initial time offenders. He replied “absolutely not,” and then added:

“The existing laws have been passed in a time of mass hysteria and total ignorance about marijuana. This single law has created felons out of an whole generation. The young persons now appear upon law enforcement as their bitter enemy. They think about cops to be narrow-minded racists who send out informants to spy on them and set them up for arrests, which can outcome in amazing jail sentences…

About 50 % of the felony situations filed in Pitkin County in the final 3 years have been possession of marijuana. A hopeless waste.”

Super Freaks

Aspen in 1970 (Wikimedia Inventive Commons)

The campaign could have began as an elaborate prank, but then a funny point occurred. Momentum started to construct, and victory abruptly seemed probable. So a great deal so that Hunter Thompson took out an ad in the Aspen Instances to assure the electorate that he was certainly critical about becoming their Sheriff.

“This is a weird twist in my life, but regardless of the all-natural horror of seeing myself as the key pig, I believe it has to be carried out. Or at least tried….”

Subsequent, the Thompson for Sheriff campaign started publishing detailed policy statements and organizational charts to clarify how their proposed reforms would make nearby law enforcement accessible and accountable to all citizens rather of just the affluent and influential.

Hunter Thompson went so far as to shave his head bald so that he could refer to Sheriff Whitmire as “my extended haired opponent.” He also wrote an post for Rolling Stone titled “The Battle of Aspen” that brought national interest to the race.

The Washington Post ran with the headline “Hippies Could Elect a Sheriff.” The subsequent day the New York Instances countered with “‘Freak Power’ Candidate Could Be the Subsequent Sheriff in Placid Aspen, Colorado.”

As Election Day neared, the whole town was in a frenzy. Opposition fliers have been sent out depicting Hunter Thompson as a Nazi basic. Voters who seemed most likely to assistance the Freak Energy ticket have been harassed when attempting to register, which lead to criminal charges against the County Clerk. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation warned Thompson of credible death threats against him.

Then issues got truly crazy, as Thompson described it in Kingdom of Worry:

“At 1 point [Sheriff Witmire] hired a phony outlaw biker from Denver—a veteran of two years of undercover perform for the feds—who boomed into town 1 day on a junk chopper and initial threatened to dynamite my residence if I didn’t drop out of the race at when . . . then apologized for the threat—when it failed—and attempted to employ on as my bodyguard . . . then spread rumors that persons on my employees have been in touch with Kathy Powers and a gang of Weathermen who planned to blow up all the bridges into town . . . then attempted to sell us automatic weapons . . . then presented to stomp the shit out of anyone we aimed him at . . . then got himself busted, by accident, when the city cops identified a fully illegal sawed-off 20-gauge pump action shotgun in his car—which they occurred to tow away from a no-parking zone.”

The evening just before the election, Thompson and his core group paced the walls of his cabin outdoors town, which by necessity had been transformed into an armed encampment. The subsequent day, the earliest returns showed Freak Energy in the lead, but in the finish they came up 400 votes quick.

The Democratic and Republican parties in Aspen had conspired with each other to back a single candidate (the establishment-friendly incumbent) rather than threat losing a 3-way race to somebody neither celebration could manage.

And so Hunter Thompson lost the Battle of Aspen. But Freak Energy would win the war.

In the subsequent election, the whole Aspen City Council was voted out and replaced by Joe Edwards and other counterculture varieties. Then in 1976 Sheriff Whitmire was removed from his post amid accusations of misappropriating funds from the jail, and an ally of Hunter Thompson took more than and enacted numerous of the Freak Energy movement’s proposed reforms.

Aspen (alas, not “Fat City”), a town of just more than 7,000 residents, now has seven cannabis dispensaries in its downtown core alone, and final year became the initial city in history to have a lot more cannabis sales than alcohol sales in a single year.

Anything to ponder as I delve even deeper into the UCSC archive, just as the edibles start to take hold.