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The Grateful Dead Did Get It: Reporters and Cops

A drug raid at the band’s Haight-Ashbury headquarters nets arrests and laughs

Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead, June 8th, 1967

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

“That’s what ya get for dealing the killer weed,” laughed state narcotics agent Jerry Van Ramm at the 11 members of the Grateful Dead household he and his agents had rounded up into the Dead’s kitchen.

The Good Ole Grateful Dead had gotten it. Eight narcotics agents, followed by a dozen reporters and television crews, raided the Dead’s house at 710 Ashbury Street on October 2. A little after 3:30 in the afternoon, two members of the band, Pigpen and Bob Weir; their two managers, Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin; their equipment manager, Bob Matthews; and six friends had been busted on dope charges.

The cops carried no warrant and broke in the front door even after being denied entry. Danny and Rock weren’t in the house, but were yanked from the porch when they came strolling by after the reporters had arrived. As well as members of the band, the police confiscated the files, money and phonebooks of the band and of the Haight Ashbury Legal Organization, whose offices are in the Dead’s house.

While the narcs did their work, a rooting section gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the house and, like a Greek chorus, filled the air with a running commentary on the proceedings.

Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl weren’t home at the time of the bust. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann and bassist Phil Lesh live elsewhere, but Phil’s old lady, Florence, was at 710 and was handcuffed to Weir on the way to the Hall of Justice.

After six hours in jail, the dastardly 11 were released on bail. On October 23, they return to the Hall of Justice for a preliminary hearing. Their chances look good. In the meantime, they showed up at their bail bondsman’s office the cold morning after the arrest, were arraigned in court (when Rock was arrested again on the additional charge of maintaining a house where narcotics are used) and had a press conference.

The press conference was held in the Dead’s living room, filled to capacity with a tangle of microphones, television cameras, lights, wires, notepads, soundmen, reporters and photographers. Danny opened it with a statement:

“The arrests were made under a law that classifies smoking marijuana along with murder, rape and armed robbery as a felony. Yet almost anyone who has ever studied marijuana seriously and objectively has agreed that marijuana is the least harmful chemical used for pleasure and life-enhancement.

“The law contains an even greater evil. It encourages the most outrageously discriminatory type of law enforcement. If the lawyers, doctors, advertising men, teachers and political officeholders who use marijuana were arrested today, the law might well be off the books before Thanksgiving. The law creates a mythical danger and calls it a felony. The people who enforce the law use it almost exclusively against individuals who threaten their ideas of the way people should look and act.

“Behind all the myths is the reality. The Grateful Dead are people engaged in constructive, creative effort in the musical field, and this house is where we work as well as our residence. Because the police fear and misinterpret us, our effort is now interrupted as we deal with the consequences of a harrassing arrest.”

Questions and answers followed, much like a Beatle press conference. In response to “How long did it take you to grow your hair that long, Danny?” Rifkin said, “We’ve always figured that if we ever held a press conference the first reporter who asked a stupid question would get a cream pie in his face, and you’re him.”

A huge bowl of whipped cream was ceremoniously produced to everyone’s obvious delight, including all the reporters except the one. He cringed and Danny, taking pity, spared him. After the conference was finished, cookies, coffee and cake were served and the predictable jokes were made.

Rolling Stone didn’t leave. We adjourned to the porch to take a few pictures of one of the most beautiful bands in the world.

Notice all the rifles. Pigpen has a big collection. If he had been thinking quick, he would have been prepared for all eventualities.

Dig Jerry: he’s Big Man on Campus. Who else has a T-shirt like that? Jerry said that if they put out a warrant for his arrest — which so far they haven’t — he would beat them to it and go down to the Hall of Justice voluntarily to surrender, carrying a white flag.

Oh, yeah. Ever see a picture of Phil wearing those dark glasses before?

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