Pubdate: Mon, 22 Oct 2007
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2007 The Huntsville Times
Author: John Ehinger, for the editorial board.


Salvia Divinorum Is Illegal in Some Places but Not in Alabama

The scientific name is Salvia divinorum. It's a member of the mint
family and one of about 500 plants in the genus Salvia. But this
salvia is different from the flowering plant you may have in the
garden, and that's cause for some concern.

A recent article in The Times noted that the crushed and dried leaves
of Salvia divinorum are available for purchase here - over the
counter. The plant grows naturally in some areas of Mexico and has
long been used by indigenous shamans. It's said to have significant
psychoactive properties, causing hallucinations and other
psychological effects. The name can be translated as "sage of the seers."

Such a drug can impair a person's ability to drive a car and do other
daily things. There are concerns that Salvia divinorum can lead to
mental illness in those who smoke or chew it.

You can walk into a store and buy Salvia divinorum because in Alabama
it's not illegal, although its sale is against the law in at least
seven other states, including Tennessee.

So why hasn't the Alabama Legislature done something? One legislator,
state Sen. Hank Erwin, a Republican from Alabaster, says it's not
because lawmakers don't care. Rather, it's because most are simply
unaware of the drug and the problems associated with it.

Erwin sponsored Senate Bill 330 in the upper house of the Legislature
earlier this year. It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Erwin's
bill would have regulated Salvia as a controlled substance much in the
way the law defines and controls opiates and opium

Because Alabama is not known as a permissive state when it comes to
recreational drugs, getting something on the books should be much
easier when legislators know more about the substance, its
recreational use and its effects.

Part of the slow pace at which laws are being passed may be the result
of an active and vocal online Salvia constituency. Its users claim its
effects have been overstated and are of short duration. They also
claim the drug has no serious effects, but even its makers warn people
not to drive after using it.

At the very least, legislators need to find out more and then act
accordingly. If the state can pass laws making it illegal to drive
after drinking alcohol, it can't look away when substances such as
Salvia become popular - and are so easily obtained.
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