People, Plants, and Postage
Psychoactive drug historian Michael Horowitz recently brought to Erowid's attention some 2011 postage from the Republic of Togo depicting R. Gordon Wasson. He raised the question: Was this the first time that an entheogenic explorer had been honored on a stamp?
Intrigued by the possibility of "psychoactive stamps", I expanded the inquiry: What, if any, known psychoactive plants are pictured on postage? Quite a few, actually. Considering its historic importance within the United States, tobacco quickly sprang to mind as a likely candidate. Surprisingly, the opposite appears to be the case. In his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times, movie critic Roger Ebert quips:
"We are all familiar, I am sure, with the countless children and teenagers who have been lured into the clutches of tobacco by stamp collecting, which seems so innocent, yet can have such tragic outcomes."4Ebert's sarcasm refers to the 2008 Michael Deas portrait of Betty Davis commissioned by the US Postal Service for use on a 42¢ stamp. Though the image is based on a well-known still from her film All About Eve, Davis's ever-present iconic cigarette has vanished from Deas's painting. Her gloved hand remains teasingly poised "in the position", sans smoke. Fourteen years earlier, Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers, had the cigarette plucked from his lips by USPS censors in his portrait for a 29¢ stamp. The meager photographic record of this legendary American guitarist makes Johnson's missing smoke feel even more like the hand of Big Brother at work.
Ebert's warning raises an amusing alternate concern: Could psychoactive plants lure a person into the clutches of stamp collecting? It seemed so innocent, yet it could have a tragic effect on one's pocketbook. Alas, I was hooked before I bought my first stamp.
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