Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 2010
Source: Daily Cardinal (U of WI, Madison, Edu)
Copyright: 2010 The Daily Cardinal Newspaper Corporation
Author: Samantha Witthuhn


Don't leave public opinion out of public decisions.

Two weeks ago, the powerful hand of the law laid a smack down on one
of the few remaining legal drugs being used throughout Wisconsin.
Salvia divinorum, commonly confused with saliva, was effectively
banned from being manufactured and distributed among the many citizens
of Wisconsin.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the short-term hallucinogenic
drug, salvia is a Mexican herb that was legal to those over the age of
eighteen up until March 3, 2010. The drug is known to cause
hallucinations that remain for a short period of time. They occur
seconds after being smoked, licked or chewed. The lack of lengthy
sensory stimulations produced by salvia have pushed it to become an
afterthought substance among avid drug users and essentially makes it
an unpopular and somewhat "non-existent" drug to the general public.

Despite salvia's minor impact on society, state legislators, including
former state Senators Sheldon Wasserman and David Cullen, have found
its existence to be so troublesome that they have continually exerted
efforts to ban the drug for the sake of "protecting our children."
Authoring the Assembly Bill 168, Wasserman and Cullen believe salvia
to be a dangerous hallucinogen that "we cannot allow young people to
be deceived into thinking [is] risk free because it is legal." Gov.
Jim Doyle concurred with Wasserman's claims and ultimately decided to
rid Wisconsin of the herb upon signing the bill outlawing the drug on
March 3, making Wisconsin a fresh member of the 19 states now
regulating it.

While the prohibition of salvia divinorum has been branded into
legislation for the last two weeks, knowledge of its removal has
failed to successfully spread to those familiar with the substance.
Although local businesses now risk facing $10,000 fines if found
violating the new legislation, many who have experimented with the
trivial hallucinogen remain ignorant to its newfound illegality. The
reason for this unawareness is the lack of public exposure to the
bill. Time to debate the guts of the bill or submit a referendum was
overlooked, for the taboo topic of legalizing any questionable
substance remains a dark subject most sensible state lawmakers aim to

Although students attempt to make their voices heard through stoned
State Street marches toward the Capitol once a year or by passionately
carving "Legalize It" on the back of almost every chair in Bascom 165,
decisions outlawing particular drugs continue to be made without
public knowledge. Delivering proper and accurate information
concerning the pros and cons of legalizing the use of certain
substances remains unclear because most politicians tend to turn their
shoulders on drug-related matters for fear of public disapproval. The
ban on salvia throughout Wisconsin is yet another example of a
successful push to ban a drug that ultimately only harms those who
make the choice to use it.

Representation for those in favor of legalizing marijuana and other
drugs is minimal, and the time has come for legislators and
representatives to overcome their fears of rejection by particular
demographics and start listening to constituents who have valid
arguments surrounding big, bad drugs. The purpose of this article is
not to debate the pros and cons surrounding the legalization of
marijuana, but to highlight how important it is for politicians to
start listening to their constituents about these issues. By imposing
laws and regulations without public consent, state politicians like
Gov. Doyle are essentially deciding what is best for us. Constituents
should have a say in this.

Outlawing more and more drugs may have negative effects on those who
use them safely and legally, which might make their opinions
significant enough to deserve adequate representation. The lack of
total publication of the new ban on salvia divinorum demonstrates that
politicians are not taking those in favor of legal usage seriously.

Unfortunately, representatives continue to avoid subjects concerning
the authorization of particular substances for fear of decreased
approval ratings and pessimistic political reputations despite
legitimate and valid arguments being expressed by the opposition. The
banning of salvia throughout Wisconsin is yet another step backwards
in the world of healthy drug debates. What's next to go, Red Bull?
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake