Albert Hofmann LSD experiment: Cycling in a drug intoxication?
On 19 April 1943, the chemist Albert Hofmann set out on a very special bike ride: He whipped up a load of LSD, which he had discovered a few years before, to find out whether it might not have an effect on the human organism. And what an effect it had! He himself described it like this in his Albert Hofmann LSD experimental protocol.
Albert Hofmann LSD experimental protocol: an excerpt
“I could only speak intelligibly with the greatest effort and asked my lab assistant, who had been informed about the self-experiment, to accompany me home. On the way home by bike […] my condition already took on threatening forms. Everything in my field of view wavered and was distorted as if in a curved mirror. I also had the feeling that I couldn’t move on my bike. Meanwhile, my assistant later told me that we had been riding very fast.
[Zu Hause angelangt] the dizziness and faintness became so strong at times that I could no longer hold myself upright and had to lie down on a sofa. My surroundings had now changed in a frightening way. […] the familiar objects took on grotesque, mostly threatening forms. They were in constant motion, as if animated, as if filled with inner turmoil. The neighbour’s wife […] was no longer Mrs R., but a malicious, insidious witch with a coloured grimace. etc. etc.” (Source: Albert Hofmann LSD self-experiment protocol)
From this anecdote, a few obvious supporters of Hofmann’s self-experimentation came up with the resourceful idea of henceforth celebrating this day as Bicycle Day. Whether you think LSD is good or not is another matter. What we like is a Bicycle Day! We like to celebrate it every day. Without drugs, by the way.
Pressedienst Fahrrad thought the topic a little further and, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the “holiday”, put a few questions to Franziska Klöpf, who, as a lawyer with the cycling legal consultancy Bikeright, knows a lot about cycling on drugs by profession. Do you think it’s okay to consume LSD like Albert Hofmann and then set off on a big bike tour?
Interview with lawyer Franziska Klopf on the topic: Cycling under the influence of drugs
pressedienst-fahrrad: On 19 April 1943, 75 years ago, the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann cycled home in Basel under the influence of LSD. Would riding under the influence of drugs like that still be allowed today?
Franziska Klöpf: “Absolutely not. This is not allowed today from the point of view of the narcotics law. The production and consumption of chemical substances and compounds such as Albert Hofmann’s LSD are not permitted in Germany. Whether it is even a criminal offence depends on the individual case. § 316 of the Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) may come into play here.
It states: Any person who is unable to drive safely as a result of consuming alcoholic beverages or other intoxicating substances shall be liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding one year or to a monetary penalty. If the endangerment of other people or property even occurs in this context, a prison penalty of up to five years can even be imposed.”
pd-f: Throughout his life, Hofmann advocated removing classical psychedelics such as LSD from the drug discussion, as they would not have any addictive potential. What consequences would legalisation have for road traffic?
Klöpf: “From a legal point of view, there would then of course be no administrative offence due to a violation of the Narcotics Act and there would also no longer be any criminal relevance. Nevertheless, we would have to admit that the driving ability is clearly influenced by the consumption of drugs. It is difficult to assess what consequences this would have for road traffic. Personally, I therefore cannot share Mr Hofmann’s claim.”
pd-f: What are the penalties for being stopped by the police while cycling under the influence of drugs? Does a diagnosis also have an effect on the driving licence?
Klöpf: “In addition to the already mentioned offence against the Narcotics Act as well as possible proceedings according to § 316 of the Strafgesetzbuch, the police can also order a medical-psychological examination. A revocation of the driving licence according to section 69 of the Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) is out of the question, as this refers to motor vehicles. Bicycles are not covered. The same applies to a driving ban that the driving licence authority can impose under section 25 of the Straßenverkehrsordnung.”
pd-f: Who is liable if an accident occurs with another road user?
Klöpf: “The question of liability in an accident is independent of whether the cyclist was under the influence of drugs or not. In an accident between a car and a bicycle, the car driver is usually always partially to blame. The reason is the so-called operational risk: a car is more dangerous than a bicycle. However, if the cyclist is riding under the influence of drugs, contributory negligence can also be considered. Then it depends on the individual case who was responsible for the accident and to what extent. If it is proven to the cyclist that the accident was caused by a gross traffic violation due to drug use, he may have to bear the costs alone.”
pd-f: Hofmann writes about his experiences on the bicycle tour: “Already on the way home by bicycle, my condition took on threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if in a curved mirror. I also had the feeling that I could not move on my bicycle. Meanwhile, my assistant later told me that we were going very fast.” So it’s better to leave the bike behind and not take LSD like Albert Hofmann before setting off?
Klöpf: “Riding a bike is beautiful by itself. You don’t need any more drugs. That’s why it’s better to do without the drugs, sit on the bike and enjoy the impressions.”