Pubdate: Wed, 08 May 2013
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 Peterborough Examiner


An apparent reluctance to outlaw the hallucinogenic herb salvia could 
mean we are learning something from expensive, wasteful and 
ineffective attempts at controlling soft drugs.

Prohibition and the mockery the Roaring Twenties made of it are still 
the prime example, with marijuana laws a close second.

Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive variety of salvia, a type of sage 
that is part of the mint family. It causes a short but intense 
hallucinogenic experience.

There have been sporadic campaigns to add salvia to the federal 
Controlled Substances Act. Health Canada two years ago suggested the 
herb could be declared a Stage III drug under the act along with LSD 
and mescaline. That would be one stage lower than marijuana and one 
higher than steroids and most barbiturates. Stage III status would 
make it illegal to have, sell, cultivate or produce salvia divinorum.

Salvia's current status is murky. Health Canada calls it a "natural 
health product" that can be regulated and is not authorized for sale. 
However, professionally packaged brands are openly available at 
stores in Peterborough and in most Canadian cities.

The biggest push for criminalization began seven years ago when the 
parents of a 17-year-old boy in the state of Delaware blamed salvia 
use for his suicide. Since than more than 20 U.S. states have made it 
illegal. Others have rejected criminalization laws or put them on hold.

There are scientific arguments against criminalization, not least 
that little is known about what, if any, long-term effects there are 
and how salvia reacts with other drugs and alcohol. Outside of the 
short-term "high" it could be harmless.

As well, some researchers believe it could be an important natural 
treatment for depression and don't want their work disrupted by a criminal ban.

But the best reason not to call in the law is that we know the law 
barely works to control similar substances. Investigating and laying 
charges would tie up police and court time, and eat into budgets for 
dealing with more serious crimes. People who have no other criminal 
record would be tied down with one, for no good reason.

And as with marijuana - and alcohol in the 1920s - salvia would not 
be eradicated. It would go underground and still be available at an 
inflated price.

Any regulation should not go beyond what happens with cigarettes or 
alcohol - minimum age laws for consumption. The lesson of the past is 
that anything more would be excessive and ineffective.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom