The Man Who Made Orange Sunshine: Remembering Acid Chemist Nick Sand (Watch)


Nicholas Sand died over the weekend at the age of 75. He deserves to be remembered for his role in ushering in the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s. While not nearly as well known an acid exponent as Dr. Timothy Leary, who advised a generation to "tune in, turn on, and drop out," Sand and his partner in crime, Tim Scully, made it possible for millions to do just that, or at least, to get their hands on a tab of LSD.

Sand and Scully were the mad chemists behind a legendary form of acid—the Orange Sunshine that blew the minds of millions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The idea was to turn on a nation, and with their production run of 4 million hits of the potent psychedelic, they were well on their way. For Sand, it was fulfilling a mission.

"My first experience with taking acid changed everything," Sand explained in a 2015 documentary about his life as an LSD chemist.  "I was floating in this immense black space. I said, 'What am I doing here?' And suddenly a voice came through my body," Sand continued. "'Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world.'"

That documentary, The Sunshine Makers(now available on Netflix), recounts Sand' life, from his upbringing as an authentic Brooklyn red diaper baby (Dad was a Communist fired from the Manhattan Project after being seen with a Soviet intelligence agent; Mom was a Communist Party activist), through his years as chemical wunderkind, first cementing a reputation for fine home-made DMT and then teaming up with Scully in the Orange Sunshine adventure, and on to his years in Canada as a fugitive from American justice for his psychedelic caper.  

Scully was no slouch either, having worked as lab partner with the near-mythical acid chemist Owsley Stanley, and in fact, it was Scully who taught Sand how to make LSD. Between them, they planned of producing 750 million hits of Orange Sunshine to create a revolution in consciousness, or, in Sand's own words, "a new world of peace and love."

The law stopped them before they got that far, but, as the New York Times noted contemporaneously, their Orange Sunshine, touted as the purest of the time, "showed up wherever hippies gathered: at Grateful Dead concerts, in California communes, in Indian ashrams, in the hashish havens of Afghanistan."

Although Scully had gotten out of the game after narrowly beating an earlier lab bust, Sand continued cranking out the Sunshine until 1973, when he wasa busted, bringing Scully down with him. At the time of his arrest, Sand still had a flowchart Scully had made showing the steps for producing LSD, and that was enough to make Scully equally culpable in the feds' eyes.

Scully accepted a 20-year federal prison deal, but Sand balked at a 15-year sentence, instead going underground and eventually slipping into Canada, where he spent the next 20 years devoting himself to his life's work: making LSD. But his luck eventually ran out, he was caught, and ended up doing six years in prison.

The law may have managed to cage him for a while, but it couldn't change Nick Sand. He emerged just as insistent on his calling to "turn on the world."

"I have a vision to bring a new level of consciousness" to the human race, he wrote in 2001. "That is what I will continue to do to my last breath."

At least he lived long enough to see the renaissance of the psychedelic vision he both lived by and helped turn into a cultural fact. Nick Sand was a true pioneer. 

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