Pubdate: Thu, 24 Mar 2011
Source: Alaska Highway News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 Glacier Interactive Media
Author: Ryan Lux, Staff Writer


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

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

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.