Drugs work and campaign papers

Part of:
Stephen Abrams (1938-2012): archive
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Comprises files regarding Abrams' interest in drug use and law and his involvement in the cannabis law reform campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s. The files cover his organisation of the cannabis advert published in The Times in 1967 (see PP/SAB/B/1/2), his company Soma Research Association (see PP/SAB/B/1/3), the Wootton Report (see PP/SAB/B/1/3 and PP/SAB/B/2/5), Abrams' association with the CIA's Project MK-ULTRA (see PP/SAB/B/1/5) and his writings on various drugs topics including his account of his activities in the 1960s and 1970s (see PP/SAB/B/2).



Physical description

21 boxes

Biographical note

Whilst at Oxford, Abrams wrote an essay titled "The Oxford Scene and the Law" which observed that cannabis users were treated more harshly than heroin users: the former were treated as criminals and the latter as ill people requiring treatment. The essay was published without his permission in January 1967 in The People Sunday newspaper. The story spread and there was as student protest march in Oxford. At this time Abrams formed SOMA (Society for Mental Awareness), an informal drug research project. He also gave evidence at the University Committee on Student Health and called for a government inquiry into the government's drugs policy. In April 1967 the Home Secretary appointed the Sub-Committee on Hallucinogens (part of Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence) chaired by Baroness Wootton.

That summer, Abrams proposed the idea of publishing an advert in a national newspaper that would serve to both petition the Wotton Committee and to raise awareness of the case of John "Hoppy" Hopkins, a photographer and activist arrested for cannabis possession. The advert was paid for my Paul McCartney and signed by various notable people of the day including the rest of the Beatles, Francis Crick, Graham Greene, David Bailey, David Dimbleby, R.D. Laing and Francis Huxley. It was published in The Times on 24 July 1967 and began "The law against marijuana is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice" and went on to call for more research into the uses of cannabis, permission for cannabis to be smoked in private premises and relaxation of cannabis laws. The advert created national debate and influenced the final report of the Wootton Committee.

In 1968, Abrams dropped the acronym and incorporate SOMA as the Soma Research Association. It counted Francis Crick, R.D. Laing and Francis Huxley amongst its directors and initiated a research programme to manufacture and investigate the effects of synthetic THC (a cannabinoid). Based on these activities, in 1968 The News of the World printed a front-page article about Soma and Abrams with the headline "This dangerous man MUST be stopped!" Abrams threatened to sue for defamation. By 1969 Abrams was uncomfortable with the scrutiny he and his work were receiving from the press and police and in 1970 he wound up Soma and left Oxford to focus on his research on alchemy and Carl Jung.

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