Pubdate: Fri, 14 Apr 2006
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2006 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Tom Humphrey


Plant Related To Sage Can Still Be Used For Landscaping Purposes

NASHVILLE - The Senate voted Thursday to prohibit consumption of a 
plant with hallucinogenic properties, though it can still be grown 
and harvested "strictly for aesthetic, landscaping or decorative purposes."

The bill by Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, applies to Salvia 
Divinorum A, an herb related to sage that is native to parts of Mexico.

Burchett said he filed the bill after learning the plant is 
hallucinogenic and available in the Knoxville area, as well as being 
sold over the Internet. There is no federal law prohibiting sale or 
usage of the plant, though the Food and Drug Administration is 
considering a change in its status to make it illegal, Burchett said.

After introducing the bill, the senator received an e-mail message 
criticizing his proposal, saying the plant should be restricted to 
prevent use by youths, but not prohibited.

"It can, when used properly, provide the seeker with what is known as 
'Primary Religious Experience,' a state comparable to the Ecstasy of 
the Saints or being filled with the spirit at a revival. It would be 
sinful and unlawful to deny that experience to those who seek a 
closer relationship with their Creator," said the e-mail.

The sender of the e-mail, who used the title "reverend" before his 
name and indicated that he lived in Knoxville, could not be reached 
for comment. Burchett said the e-mail actually encouraged rather than 
discouraged his efforts to pass the bill.

Still, the measure was softened somewhat by an amendment before 
winning unanimous passage by the Senate. As drafted, producing or 
distributing the plant would have been a felony punishable by up to 
12 years in prison. Legislative staff estimated that would cost the 
state more than $180,000 per year to house the resulting prisoners.

With the amendment, the punishment is a Class A misdemeanor, 
punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and a fine of $2,500. 
That eliminated most of the estimated cost.

The revised measure also declares it permissible to grow the plant 
"strictly for aesthetic, landscaping or decorative purposes" and says 
the ban does not apply to the herb if sold as a "homeopathic" 
medicine approved by the FDA. Burchett said the FDA does not list the 
plant as a homeopathic medicine so that sales in Tennessee stores 
will be prohibited.

The bill now goes to the House, where it is sponsored by Rep. Parkey 
Strader, R-Knoxville. Strader said Burchett will join him in 
explaining the measure to a committee next week.

A Web site devoted to the plant 
(( says that only one 
other state, Louisiana, has outlawed it. A recent CNN report said the 
Delaware Senate had voted to make the plant illegal and the House is 
expected to concur. The report focused on a 17-year-old Delaware 
youth whose parents believe use of the plant was a factor in his suicide.
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