There's no doubt that baby boomers' political activism was responsible for significantly advancing the equality rights of the poor, racial minorities, women and homosexuals.
But baby boomers' psychedelic aspirations, which found musical expression in John Lennon's tangerine dreams and marmalade skies, seemingly came to an abrupt halt at the end of the 70s when most of the leaders of psychedelia either died, joined the Republican party or became overprotective parents.
The psychedelic 60s did not leave a very bright legacy on an issue that is the very essence of that era, the use of illicit mind-altering drugs.
Some of these hippies still indulge, but fear of stigma born of the state's construction of deviancy, forces many responsible users to take a vow of silence about their indulgences. There are very few boomers who speak out against the laws they flouted in their youth. They've become the very hypocrites they rebelled against.
The literal meaning of "psychedelic" (the term was coined in 1956 by Saskatchewan's Dr. Humphry Osmond, who began clinical experiments with hallucinatory drugs as a remedy for various psychiatric illnesses) is "mind-manifesting."
Early users of LSD, mescaline and psilocybin hoped to undertake a spiritual journey into unexplored regions of the mind and soul. Just as we have forgotten those original lofty aspirations, we now ignore and deny the fact that middle-aged boomers and senior citizens continue to indulge in illicit drug-taking behaviours.
When it comes to cannabis, for example, we know that consumption rates doubled between 1989 and 2004, and that some 3 million people use the plant every year.
Most people assume that this 3 million largely consists of youthful experimenters who will eventually mature and abandon the silly pursuit of non-alcohol intoxication.
The reality is that pot smokers are a greying population of parents, principals and politicians. The fact that pot remains illegal and that the state has declared it harmful to health does not deter 34 per cent of doctors and 56 per cent of lawyers in Canada from getting high on occasion.
In 1977, only 18 per cent of cannabis smokers were over the age of 30, but in 2001 the percentage shot up to 49.
Considering this changing demographic, it's surprising that our drug laws haven't been reformed and liberalized. Most people blame the looming presence of the U.S. "war on drugs," but I think we've failed on the road to rational drug law reform because aging drug users rarely come out of their smoky closets to enter the political debate.
It's obvious that politicians do not really care about the vast number of young people who enjoy illicit drugs. They're either too young or too indifferent to vote. So while people of influence remain silent about drug law reform, the Tories are poised to announce yet another National Drug Strategy that, like all the others, is grounded in more minimum sentences.
Drug-taking behaviour will always be constructed by the state as a product of youthful indiscretion or stupidity and of little interest to law-abiding, productive and mature adults. This image can only be maintained if the state also maintains a consistent image of drug use as deviant behaviour.
Aging lawyers, doctors, corporate executives and religious leaders have to publicly acknowledge that they can and do enjoy illicit drugs and do not conform to the state-sponsored stereotype of the degenerate drug abuser.
When the late Pierre Berton boldly acknowledged his love of the plant and demonstrated his joint-rolling prowess on Rick Mercer's television show, this single act of courage had greater potential to dismantle the war on drugs than the collective hubris of thousands of youthful activists taking to the streets and parks to smoke gigantic joints when the clock strikes 4:20 pm.
Alan Young is a professor of law at Osgoode Hall. His column appears every other week in NOW.