Pubdate: Sun, 08 Apr 2007
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 Calgary Herald
Author: Kenyon Wallace, Canadian Press


Health Canada Looking Into Potential Danger

A common garden herb that packs a powerful psychedelic punch has some
federal health officials calling for strict controls.

But Health Canada says it can't regulate the use of salvia divinorum
until there's more evidence of its dangers.

Department documents obtained by The Canadian Press under Access to
Information law say salvia is being used by adolescents and young
adults for its hallucinogenic properties.

A December 2005 report by the marketed health products directorate, an
arm of Health Canada, recommends that salvia be placed under the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Department spokesman Jason Bouzanis said salvia has been known to
cause hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, unconsciousness and
short-term memory loss. But that's not enough to declare it illegal.

"We can't make any recommendations to place salvia under the
Controlled Drug and Substances Act schedules until we have sufficient
scientific and empirical data that concludes it has the potential for
misuse and abuse," Bouzanis said.

Australia is one of few countries that has made it illegal to possess,
distribute and consume salvia, also known as Sally D, the diviner's
sage, or the sage of seers.

It is a species of sage, which belongs to the mint family, and is most
commonly found in Mexico, where indigenous Mazatec shamans have used
it for centuries for spiritual journeys.

Salvia leaves are most commonly dried and smoked. Extracts of
salvinorin-A, salvia's active ingredient, are available in tablet form.

Pill prices can range anywhere from $30 to $80 in Canada, depending on
the potency desired. Most online sellers of salvia advertise the herb
as a natural health product.

An October 2006 report by the natural health products directorate of
Health Canada, which is responsible for assessing safety among all
marketed health products, highlights four cases of adverse reactions
to salvia.

One case involves a 16-year-old Canadian boy who reportedly became
incoherent, suicidal, and threatened to kill police officers after
taking a single tablet of salvia in March 2005.

Despite being aware of salvia's potentially harmful effects, the RCMP
can't crack down on the herb because it's legal.

"As far as including salvia included under the Controlled Substances
Act, that's Health Canada's responsibility," said Sgt. Nathalie Deschenes.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists salvia as a "drug of
concern" but it has not been banned by the U.S. federal government.
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