Pubdate: Tue, 01 Mar 2011
Source: Brock Press, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2011 The Brock Press.
Author: Emma Godmere


OTTAWA (CUP) - The federal government has announced their plans to ban
salvia, a hallucinogenic herb that has recently enjoyed a surge in
popularity among young people in North America.

In a Feb. 21 release, the government indicated it intends to add
salvia to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), thereby
making it illegal to possess, sell, import, export and grow the plant.
Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources, described salvia in
the release as having the "potential for abuse, especially among young
people". Otherwise known as Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A, and
colloquially as "magic mint" or "diviner's sage", salvia is a plant in
the mint family and is normally smoked to experience "mild
hallucinogenic sensations," as described by a fourth-year University
of Ottawa student.

"Salvia gives an intense, but short-lived high," explained the
student, who wished to remain anonymous. "It is more accessible in
this way than marijuana, as it won't leave you hungry and giggly for
an hour afterwards."

According to a Feb. 4 government notice from Health Canada that first
proposed the ban, little is known about the health risks related to
salvia. The report lists dysphoria, out-of-body experiences,
unconsciousness, short-term memory loss and hallucinations among its
known effects.

"The term hallucinogenic can also likely be misleading or poorly
understood," the student added. "Users are not interacting with others
and seeing things that aren't there; rather, they strongly experience
their sense of self. A comfy chair becomes engrossing to the point
that you feel you're a part of it, or you spend two minutes wondering
intensely why you can't remember how to stand up."

Salvia is currently considered a natural health product and
technically is only allowed to be sold if it has been reviewed and
authorized by Health Canada. Nevertheless, as it has yet to be added
to the CDSA and become fully criminalized, it can often be found in
shops as accessible as convenience stores.

The Feb. 4 notice also cites the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use
Monitoring Survey, which indicated that 7.3 per cent of youth aged 15
to 24 had used salvia as of 2009.

"Because its psychoactive effects resemble those of other substances
included in [...] the CDSA, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
and psilocybin, Health Canada is concerned that the ready availability
and use of S. divinorum poses a risk to the health and safety of
Canadians, particularly youth," read the notice.

"I think it's foolish," said the UofO student, referring to salvia's
pending criminalization. "There isn't a present or growing threat from
salvia, nor is there a danger or harm to its users. Criminalizing it
puts more money into the pockets of smugglers and organized crime who
will take up the latent demand, and costs us more in terms of the
social cost of increased prosecution of well-intentioned and harmless

Salvia has already been regulated or restricted in some U.S. states
and several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland,
Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Sweden, according to
Health Canada.

However, the herb will not go under an immediate ban: Stakeholders and
members of the public have until Mar. 21 to comment on the proposal,
after which the federal regulatory process could continue for up to
two years.
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MAP posted-by: Matt