Pubdate: Tue, 07 May 2013
Source: Northumberland Today (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 Sun Media
Author: Pete Fisher


NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY - It's on the street, it's dangerous and it's legal.

It's called salvia divinorum, and comes in different strengths.

There is "standardized" salvia and there is "extreme" salvia that 
says "horse killer" on the package. But there are many other forms.

"It is called 'horse killer' because of its extra ordinary power and 
deep trip," it says on the back of the package.

Though packages say the product is for incense only, on the street 
people are smoking it like marijuana.

Salvia is an herb, but has an hallucinogenic effect on a person when smoked.

Since it's legal, it's becoming more popular - and, police services 
say, more dangerous.

Cobourg Police Chief Kai Liu said salvia divinorum isn't for sale in 
Cobourg that he knows of, "however we are being vigilant."

"It's legal in Canada. However, because of the hallucinogenic effects 
we are concerned of the abuse and availability, especially young 
people in our community," Liu said.

In 2011 Health Canada made the announcement that it would add salvia 
divinorum to the list of illegal controlled substances, "but as of 
this date, it has not been added," Liu said.

"I'm assuming they are committed to adding it as a controlled 
substance and they are going through the process."

One person, who asked not to be named, shared her story of using the herb.

Having a teenage son, she wanted to know more about salvia and bought 
some while she was in Peterborough.

While visiting what's known as a "head shop" she and her husband were 
educated on the effect it had on the clerk, who said it was used 
"during vision quests."

"I was shocked that an herb with the tendency to cause hallucinations 
was legal and readily available," the woman told Northumberland Today.

The couple bought the lowest strength to see how this legal herb 
affects a person.

"We both have children and I wanted to know what this herb would do 
to a person when smoked," she said.

She said her experience shocked her.

"It tastes horrible and left me with a feeling of being hung over," she said.

"To think that children can use something that is a shortened version 
of acid (the high lasts five to 10 minutes versus the high of acid 
which can last five or more hours) and not have any legal consequence 
blows my mind, pardon the pun."

"I worry a lot about the children in this area being exposed to 
salvia," she said. "It should not be legal, but if it is to remain 
legal it should not be sold in the corner stores where it is more 
accessible to children."

Port Hope Police Detective Constable Mike Powell said the service has 
been aware of the herb for a number of years, since it received 
complaints the product was being sold in corner stores near the area 
of Port Hope High School.

Powell said salvia, or khat, is prevalent in the East Indian communities.

"Through my undercover experience... I know in the Peel Region it is 
readily available," he said.

Though it is legal to possess, salvia is illegal to import. Powell 
said the herb usually comes from Afghanistan via Heathrow airport in Britain.

"Obviously with any hallucinogenic - anything that puts your mind in 
an ulterior state - anything can happen," he said.

OPP Detective Constable Leon Miklos said many countries have outlawed 
salvia, as have a number of states in the U.S.

"It shouldn't be used in the manner it is being used," he said, 
adding salvia is being "misrepresented in Canada."

In 2009 Health Canada said 7.6% of people between the ages of 15 and 
24 had used or tried salvia at least once.

Stephanie Campbell, executive assistant to Northumberland - Quinte 
West MP Rick Norlock, said she spoke with Health Canada last week 
regarding Salvia.

"They are still monitoring the prevalence of salvia in stores as well 
as its use, especially among youth," she said.

Campbell said Health Canada is still committed to having salvia 
listed as a controlled substance "at some point."

Health Canada's e-mail reply stated "our government is always looking 
at ways to protect Canadians, particularly youth, from potentially 
harmful substances. Health Canada continues to survey the prevalence 
of salvia and available information on these substances that have the 
potential for abuse and harm, especially among young Canadians. We 
remain committed to listing Salvia as a controlled substance."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom