By Andrew Arnett

Beal has never let up the fight, publishing The Yipster Times through the 70’s and 80’s, organizing The Global Marijuana March in the 90’s, Cures Not WarsJuly 4th Smoke-In and much, much more.

His current goal is to get Ibogaine for Afghanistan up and running. Beal claims that the herb ibogaine is the silver bullet that can cure heroin addiction with one dose.

After a downtown lecture on The History of Marijuana Prohibition, where Beal shared the panel with High Times publisher Rick Cusick, we joined Beal at a Szechuan restaurant in midtown Manhattan to discuss his life in activism.

Picture: Andrew Arnett
Dana Beal pictured on the right, Rick Cusick in the middle. Picture: Andrew Arnett

ARNETT:  What is ibogaine?

BEAL: Ibogaine is a medicinal extract from the inner root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant which grows in West Africa. It is used by the people there for healing and as a ritual entheogen. 

ARNETT: How does it cure heroin addiction with one dose?

BEAL: Ibogaine has been found to switch on a growth factor, GDNF, that not only regenerates dopamine neurons suppressed by substance abuse, but also back-signals to cell nuclei to express more and more GDNF so addicts can stay clean without needing more Ibogaine.

ARNETT: How did you get involved with drugs?

BEAL: I was scientifically inclined despite not having a formal scientific education. I read chemistry books. I was fascinated by biology but I never took a course in biology. I got my biology from studying to be a drug chemist to make drugs. I learned how to make drugs like mescaline from peyote.

"Dana Beal 1994" by Peter M. Bergin
Beal marches at the head of the New York City Marijuana March in 1994. Picture: Peter M. Bergin

ARNETT: You knew Tom Forcade, founder of High Times Magazine.

BEAL: I knew him very well. He fucking hunted me down. 

ARNETT: In a friendly way or with a gun?

The Yippie flag
The Yippie flag

BEAL:  In a friendly way. He found me at a rally at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, 1970.  The guys from the Chicago 8 were there as well because the head of the Black Panthers, Bobby Seale, was on trial for the Alex Rackley murder. That was around the time of Kent State and the Yippie flag with black background, red star and green cannabis leaf, flew at every campus. It was the maximum extent of the Yippie movement. 

ARNETT: The Yippie high water mark.

BEAL:  But then the split occurred over Steal This Book and the Yippies split. We never had the unity again. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I was in jail for a year. I wasn’t able to be a peace maker.  And when I got out, Abbie (Hoffman) said  “I’ll turn the Yippies over to you, you can be the chairman of the Yippies, you just need to denounce Tom Forcade.” And I wouldn’t do it because Forcade came to see me in jail and they didn’t.  And I also thought that if they can give it, they could take it back. It wouldn’t be authentic. 

ARNETT:  So Tom Forcade hunted you down?

BEAL: He had this weird car which had a stage on the roof. He had a big Lincoln Town car and he threw a rock and roll stage on top of it and bands jammed on it.

Jack Herer and Dana Beal at the September 1989 Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. Picture: D. Paul Stanford.
Jack Herer and Dana Beal at the September 1989 Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. Picture: D. Paul Stanford.

ARNETT: Get out of here. He’s a real showman.

BEAL:  Yeah. Then I started hanging around his place on 17th street. Then we did the march against the CIA-heroin connection and ten days later I got busted. 

ARNETT: Tom was a social activist.

BEAL: He was also a pot dealer. He went right down to Mexico and went to one side, threw the stuff over the border fence, then went around to the other side with a truck and picked it up.

ARNETT: He was also a pilot?

BEAL: Well, he fancied himself a Howard Hughes.

ARNETT: The Howard Hughes of pot?

BEAL: Yeah. He learned how to fly when he was in the United States Air Force. He would use that skill to fly pot across the border form Mexico and Columbia. 

ARNETT:  At your powerpoint presentation you showed a picture of a press conference from the 70’s depicting Abbie Hoffman reaching out to shake Tom Forcade’s hand and Tom is basically ignoring him.


BEAL: Tom was refusing to shake his hand. And that was because of two things. One is that he decided that Abbie was crazy. Also, he was really upset that he didn’t get paid for his work on STEAL THIS BOOK. Abbie took all the money from STEAL THIS BOOK and put it on the Panther 21. Tom just wanted to get paid. He felt he was not being respected. Right? It’s like a guy works on your house and you decide not to pay him. And then you say you didn’t like the work he did but what it really is is that you’re a chintz.

ARNETT: It was business.

BEAL: The difference is that one guy was a pot dealer and one guy was a coke dealer.

ARNETT: Abbie was the coke dealer?

BEAL:  Abbie was really a coke dealer.

ARNETT:  And their product translated into their business model?

BEAL: It’s like this, the coke dealer will cut the coke. A pot dealer won’t cut the pot. For one thing, you’re afraid of cutting the pot because you’ll ruin it from mold. If you put water in, which is what some people did, it turns the stuff into useless garbage. Where as people who cut coke can cut coke and cut coke so they can do the coke. They do a little coke then they put some filler in, and then pretty soon the coke is bullshit. Abbie found lidocaine through his brother, who had a pharmaceutical products interest.

ARNETT:   Lidocaine is the local anesthetic used by dentists.

BEAL:   That’s right. Now he’s thinking, “Oh wow, we can take 9 ounces of pure cocaine from Latin America and turn it into 3 kilos of coke and nobody will know.”

ARNETT:   Were you involved in High Times Magazine?

BEAL:  Tom never actually involved me in the magazine. I was running another paper, The Yipster Times. And he kept hiring my staff away. We were the farm team. The Yipster Times was a national paper. The Yippies were a going concern through the 1970’s. We didn’t peter out until the end of the 1980’s. 

ARNETT:   So you’re a Yippie?

BEAL:  Yes. But I was drawn to the hippy phenomenon.  I basically left Michigan and came to New York City instead of coming to San Francisco. Everything comes from that. Some writers have claimed that I was not a Yippie but rather, a Zippie. But the minute the protests were over in 1972 we went back to “Yippie” because we didn’t really like the Zippie thing. The Zippie thing was too hedonistic, it wasn’t really authentic either. It was too much “you got a right to party,” which is good. We were for people being able to party. 

We’re not for people committing suicide with heroin though. It’s like sex. Sex can be fun and sex can be safe.

[quote_right]”Ibogaine. The Holy Grail. The cure for heroin”[/quote_right]

ARNETT: You knew some of the beatniks, like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

BEAL: What Ginsberg and Burroughs were looking for, Lotsof and Beal found.

ARNETT:  And that is what?

BEAL:  Ibogaine. The Holy Grail. The cure for heroin. The thing that they were looking for when they were cruising around South America, in the Yage Letters. Why were they in South America? It wasn’t just to get high. No, they were looking for something that would be better than apomorphine. Burroughs said, in the introduction to Naked Lunch,  “I’m sure things 50 times as effective as apomorphine can be discovered.” And that is ibogaine.

Want to read more on Ibogaine treatment as a cure for heroin? Read up on VICE News ‘A Shaman, an Exile, and a Rapper Are Bringing a Hallucinogenic Heroin Cure to Afghanistan


  • Kurt Hill

    Good interview!

  • Peter M. Bergin

    It’s great to see Dana’s 40+ year marathon of activism getting some recognition, now that we’re finally starting to enjoy the fruits – err, flowers – of his hard work.

    And thank you for crediting my photo – I’ve gotten so used to seeing my work used online without attribution that it’s a really nice surprise.

  • ajweberman

    Beal never extracted mescaline from peyote because we used Benzine instead of Benzene. I was there on East 2nd St and 1st Ave. Plus the fucker accidentally spilled acid on my t-shirt which started to melt. Nor did Beal study chemistry or biology when he lived in Michigan. I turned him on to pot at Michigan State in 1963 – that is how he got interested in drugs. Dana was never a drug chemist. Bruce Thrusen and John McClenddon were as was Nick Sand who went to Erasmus Hall and was an early acid connection for me. I was there sports fans.

  • ajweberman

    What Dana did was change National Marijuana Day or Mayday is Jayday into International Marijuana Day by establishing connections in various foreign countries and mailing them posters. He did this year after year and eventually it caught on with hundreds of thousands of people marching and sparking up this year.