Pubdate: Thu, 24 Mar 2011 Source: Alaska Highway News (CN BC) Copyright: 2011 Glacier Interactive Media Contact: http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/716 Author: Ryan Lux, Staff Writer SALVIA SITUATION Plans to criminalize the plant salvia have drawn the ire of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which argues that its criminalization would be highly counterproductive and harm the youth that Health Canada states it's trying to protect. "Health Canada says that it wants to protect young people, but we do not protect youth by sending them to jail. Criminalization does not eradicate the product, it merely consigns it to the black market, which will prevent the product from being effectively researched and safety-tested," said the BCCLA's policy director Michael Vonn. The BCCLA is critical of Health Canada's position on the hallucinogenic plant because of what they say is a lack of evidence to support the argument that it is health risk. "There is very little evidence about the health effects of Salvia, and the typical mental effects - slurred speech and awkward sentence structure, lack of physical coordination, and uncontrollable laughter - - bear a striking resemblance to the effects of alcohol," said Vonn. "It is hard to understand how products like alcohol and tobacco, which can and do cause serious diseases and even death, are seen fit for regulation, while Health Canada proposes to criminalize a product which has similar short-term effects and virtually unknown long-term effects." The BCCLA also argues that salvia's criminalization would push the herb onto the black market, which would make it harder to regulate. Health Canada wants to add the plant to schedule three of the federal government's Controlled Drug and Substances Act. The association's stance is in line with their position on other narcotics, which it argues shouldn't be placed in the realm of the criminal justice system. The BCCLA has long advocated that the non-medical use of drugs be seen as a health issue rather than a criminal law issue. The association argues that the abject failure of prohibition is well-documented and that the harms of criminalization far exceed speculative benefits. One local retailer who currently sells salvia in Fort St. John said that he plans to get out of the business before the government forces him to. He said that while there isn't any legislation governing the sale of salvia, his shop has a policy of only selling it to customers over the age of 19. Federal Minister of Natural Resources Christian Paradis and MP Shelly Glover (Saint Boniface), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, announced last month the Harper Government's proposed intention to include salvia as a controlled substance. "After reviewing Canadian surveillance data and scientific reports that suggest this substance has the potential for abuse, especially among young people, we are taking these steps to protect the health and safety of Canadians from the harmful effects of this substance," said Paradis. Added Glover:"As a mother and police officer, I am pleased to see our Government take action to help parents protect their children from this dangerous substance." This means that activities such as possession, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importation, exportation, possession for the purpose of exportation, and production (or cultivation) would be illegal unless authorized by regulation. The scheduling of salvia divinorum and salvinorin A as a controlled substance would also enable law enforcement agencies to take action against suspected illegal activities involving these substances. That also means that people who are caught growing or in possession of salvia would be subject to the Conservatives' new minimum mandatory sentencing legislation which would require jail time for the possession of the herb. Salvia divinorum (S. divinorum) is a species of sage belonging to the mint family. The products are sold in a number of forms, including fresh or dried leaves, liquids or seeds and plant cuttings for growing purposes. Health Canada argues that Canadians should not use products containing S. divinorum and/or salvinorin A because they are hallucinogenic and little is known about the long-term effects of these substances on the brain and body; how it interacts with other substances, including other drugs, natural health products and alcohol; and the potential of S. divinorum to produce physical dependence and/or addiction. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.