The Grateful Dead was a band that played
psychedelic music together since the days when LSD
was legal and was sold on large sugar cubes. For some fans,
"acid" has been part of their passage into an inner
realm of Deadheads; those who share a unique
experience in an atmosphere of intimate trust.
Photo: Deadheads at FCI (Federal Correctional Institute)
This reputation, plus its casual acceptance of odd
behavior in an atmosphere of funky marketplace, makes this
group an easy target for sting and entrapment operations.
Due to the bulky carrier materials used, such as thick
blotter, LSD cases routinely serve mandatory minimum
sentences based on many times more paper than actual drug.
There are about 2000 Deadheads in federal prison for
LSD or marijuana cases, serving anywhere from Five Years to
In 1990 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) opened
a San Francisco office for its recently formed LSD Task
Force. In some cases, agents spent years establishing trust
with young people in "Deadland" in order to entrap
them into drug deals. Christian Martensen's case is but one
of many. The taxpayers foot the bill for the LSD Task Force,
plus an estimated $40 to $50 million yearly to incarcerate
these 2,000 prisoners.
The culture surrounding LSD use does not involve other
criminal or violent activity. With few exceptions, they are
non-violent, peace-loving, and the vast majority are
serving these long sentences for a first offense.
Despite the adversity, many Deadheads maintain a positive
attitude and even develop a sense of community in prison,
expressing themselves through their artistic activities and
communicating through the pages of their own
It is widely believed that Deadheads were
targeted by the DEA beginning in the late 1980s as
"Operation Dead End," and undercover agents were
disbursed in large numbers to infiltrate the community.
Although the Department of Justice denies the existence of
such an operation, there is a clear pattern of Deadheads
being prosecuted / persecuted because of their
lifestyle choices. The defendant's "alternative lifestyle"
is often presented during trial as evidence for conviction
or for sentence enhancement.