Dana Beal Interview



Dana Beal Irvin, the grandee of the free marijuana movement and pioneer of Ibogaine (African plant) use, a free thinkinglove preaching, radical of the Woodstock generation, is still busting a proverbial blood vessel in the gut of the establishment. Now, after four decades in a colourful career of counterculture politics, Dana talks candidly to Saira Viola about his consummate struggle for change. 


S.V. The political and social tumult of the 60s and 70s created a flowering of hippiedom. As an instigator, participant and dissident of that era, what does counterculture philosophy represent to you today?

D.B.  In 1959 William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg hied off to South America in search of the Beatnik Holly Grail — a psychedelic CURE for heroin addiction — which they took to be yage. Today we call that Ayahuasca, and people claim it does help. But nothing compares to the African Rainforest cure,  ibogaine, discovered a few years later by a 19 year-old from New Jersey. Howard Lotsof. Lotsof actually tracked Ginsberg down in the Peace Eye Bookstore to tell him about it in 1963, but Allen did not register the gravity of what he was saying. The discovery of the discovery had to wait until Lotsof told me about it, a week after Nixon resigned. I needed it because people blamed me for asking George McGovern about pot and CIA heroin on national TV and supposedly costing him the election. But at first I didn’t understand the full import. It took a little more than 6 years–until after Reagan was elected — for us to start to work on ibogaine, in December 1980.

 S.V. There seemed to be a genuine mood of idealism and hope during that time: civil disobedience, protest rallies,  demonstrations all offered inspiration for change. Why do you think there is such widespread cynicism now, yet so many struggles to overcome for the marginalised, disenfranchised and oppressed?

D.B. The same movement has waxed and waned. The problem is humans can perfect the silicon chip, but not the social order. They need the chip to do it for them— and, we see what results.

S.V. You were just 16 years old when you hitchhiked all the way from your home in Ohio to Washington DC to hear Reverend Martin Luther King deliver his historic “I have a dream speech”. What inspired you to do that?

D.B. I was able to get my folks to let me go, and so entered into history. (First coverage in the Washington Post).

S.V. Two months later, on September 15 1963, the Klu Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church killing Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, and you organised your first demonstration in Lansing protesting against the Klan. Now, forty years later, we are still witnessing gruesome, unacceptable and unconscionable killings of young black men and women. These are systemic racially motivated killings of black citizens in the U.S. What are your thoughts?

D.B. Well, at least they curbed outright lynching. In the 20’s they couldn’t even pass a federal law against it, and in the 40’s Harry Anslinger ruined Billie Holliday’s life for singing “Strange Fruit.”  Nixon kept pot illegal against the recommendation of his own Schaefer Commission, because putting cannabis and heroin in the same category made the Controlled Substances Act the instrument of political persecution of the Black Panthers and the Yippies!, the lynchpin of the New Jim Crow, mass incarceration and the Southern Strategy. Police shootings affect hundreds; slow death in prison hundreds of thousands.

S.V. Could you tell us about the Yippies (Youth International movement) and the Yipster Times?

D.B. Abbie Hoffman recruited me in January, 1968, because we’d given away 4 pounds of joints to Levitate the Pentagon the previous October. I missed Chicago myself, but got involved again when it was decided to restart the Youth International Party. Our first action was the first Washington, D.C. Smoke-in in 1970 — where we punctured Nixon’s Honor America Day summoning of the Hardhat Legions (there were no hardhats, just some rightwing evangelicals) and overwhelmed Billy Graham’s meager turnout with a spirited antiwar protest. (Everyone else was afraid because the Kent State shootings had just happened.)

After I confronted McGovern we came back from Miami to New York City and started a newspaper, which explored a lot of protests as the war ended, especially marijuana smoke-ins, Rock against Racism, and phonephreaking, which became hacking, which became ubiquitous computers. In the ’80’s we stood foursquare against Reagan and eventually developed ibogaine by the early 90’s, after the paper shut down.

S.V. Most people know you are a passionate advocate for the legalisation of   marijuana and as you’ve expressed, you have a long history of marijuana  activism – leading the 1972 smoke in outside the Democratic Convention. You also founded the Global Million Marijuana March, and were the first point of call for many Aids victims, for New York’s underground medical marijuana network. Are you happy with the progress made on marijuana?

D.B. I’m not done yet. Once again, there is tremendous controversy about the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) and a push to de-schedule cannabis altogether, so it’s not even in the drug law. We need to pass a law abolishing “pothibition”, like the law against keeping slaves, or the Civil Rights Acts of the 60’s.

S.V. You also staunchly support the use of ibogaine for the treatment of drug addiction and highlighted some of the initiatives you’ve been involved in to make people aware of its benefits.Can you explain why you’re so convinced that  ibogaine works and how it differs from other medical treatments for addiction?

D.B. After almost 9 years, eventually someone I really knew took it, and I became convinced. If anyone told you a sufficient dose of a rainforest substance could end heroin withdrawal in 30 minutes and eliminate the habit so that withdrawal never came back, and craving disappeared, you would say it was too good to be true until you became convinced. Eventually everyone who reads this will advocate ibogaine, because it works via nerve growth factor GDNF, so that small amounts given daily, cures Parkinsons and re-sprouts dopamine receptors.

S.V. Turning to more personal travails: Despite suffering two heart attacks and being arrested and jailed multiple times, you continue to agitate and instigate. What’s your secret? How do you keep going in spite of all the obstacles and setbacks you’ve faced?

D.B. I would die of boredom otherwise.

S.V.Finally, on a more relaxed note, if you could share a spliff with anyone living or dead who would it be ? 

D.B. Willie Nelson or Bill Maher.



Action in Provincetown, MA




dana-1Dana Beal Arrest 1967. Freed outside Federal Courthouse

dana-2with David Peel, underground newspaper 1977, covering marijuana laws

dana-3Dana and fellow activists at underground newspaper promoting May Day is J Day

dana-4Sister Somayah Kambui Cannabis Activist and Sickle cell Anemia Sufferer RIP

dana-5Re-occupy Rally for the Yippie Times

dana-6with Aron “The Pieman” Kay

dana-7 At the NYC cannabis parade

dana-8Yippie Rally

dana-9With Steve Conliff 1977

dana-10Dana Beal addressing the crowd at the White House Smoke-in,  July 2016

dana-11Dana Beal and Jerry Rubin, with Ben Masel, passing a joint on stage

dana-12Dana Beal with Leland Radovanovic NYC, Cannabis Parade

dana-13This was the Inauguration of Nobody’s Counter inaugural Ball
on the night of 1/20/77 at DC’s

dana-14Dana Beal, Joff Wilson and David Peel en route to the UN building

dana-15Dana Beal with American Rapper and activist Immortal Technique

dana-17leading the protest to the DNC



Dana with fellow marijuana activists bringing the giant joint to Clinton’s doorstep



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11 Responses to Dana Beal Interview

    1. Great interview Saira! The cures for cancer need to be emphasised more though. Cannabis oil is illegal in many places but not California, where many child and other cancers are cured by it. Plus Henry Ford intended his first cars to be run on hemp, a fast growing and environmentally friendly and sustainable plant, before it was stamped out by the oil business who only wanted to make money, with all the ensuing devastating health and environmental problems, contributing to causing cancers, for over the last hundred years or more. Whereas the herb has so many beneficial qualities, often diverted by the idea of it being a hippy drug which gets all the legal and negative media attention, detracting from the medical cures, and physical and mental remedies and palliative benefits it can provide for many illnesses. The criminalisation of one part of this plant is a block to discovering more about it’s other powerful medical benefits. Bravo to you and Dana for highlighting this, great work.

      Comment by Claire on 25 August, 2016 at 9:33 am
    2. The gateway drug is sugar.

      Comment by C.A. Seller on 25 August, 2016 at 12:26 pm
    3. IT 1967 dances at Roundhouse

      Comment by Alan Weberman on 26 August, 2016 at 12:33 am
    4. Great to see this. I miss Steve and Ben, great to see their pics here. R.I.P.

      Comment by Scott Polar Bear on 26 August, 2016 at 5:25 pm
    5. great interview!!! i have known Dana since 1972

      Comment by aron pieman kay on 26 August, 2016 at 9:33 pm
    6. Wow! And I thought that after over 50 years of uphill struggles against cannabis prohibition, I had produced! Dana, you rock!
      We ran the 1972 California Marijuana Initiative. Polls showed that we took the approval rating for reducing pot law severity from 3-5% in 1970 to around 30% in 1972, paving the way for Medical Marijuana Prop. 215 in 1996. Like you say, we’ve come a LONG way, but we are not done yet. De-schedule, free the weed and end the War on (some) Drugs.

      Comment by Dan Hodul on 26 August, 2016 at 11:28 pm
    7. Descheduling won’t happen until the powers behind our oligarchy figure out how to make a buck off it.

      Comment by Dave Allen on 27 August, 2016 at 12:10 pm
    8. […] Dana Beal Irvin, the grandee of the free marijuana movement and pioneer of Ibogaine. via International Times […]

      Pingback by Medical Marijuana Activist from New York Pleads Not Guilty - The Puff Puff Post on 23 December, 2017 at 2:08 am
    9. […] internationaltimes.it […]

      Pingback by Saira Viola International Times – Dana Beal Interview on 3 January, 2018 at 8:28 pm
    10. Dana Beal has been the best friend the runaway kids, the political prisoners, the sick and the disheartened of the Lower East Side have ever had. He also stayed loyal to the idea of international struggle — and groups like Food Not Bombs have followed and done likewise. Good heart, strong mind, consistent actions. I think that if the Marijuana Consumers adopted a reverence for the medicine embued with generosity and lightheartedness in like manner, a whole new (or rebirthed ancient) approach to medicine as a sacred activity could be created. Let’s think about living our principles and sharing our good fortune.

      Comment by Grace Nichols on 8 June, 2018 at 9:56 pm
    11. LLLLLLLegend! this is such a lovely interview. Love this guy! Where are the dana beals now? Oh that’s right we got a load of leftie luvvies who just sing and dance for the F#G Guardian!

      Comment by Kat wheeler on 17 July, 2018 at 1:36 pm

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