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Psychedelics: Nebraska Moves to Ban Salvia Divinorum

If state Attorney General Jon Bruning has his way, Nebraska will soon join the short list of states that have criminalized the sale and possession of salvia divinorum. In a Monday press release setting his key legislative priorities, Bruning announced that banning salvia was one of his top three. (The other two were eliminating intoxication as a defense in considering the mental state of a defendant and moving against certain types of scam artists.)

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
The obscure plant, a member of the mint family native to southern Mexico, is a potent, fast-acting hallucinogen and has achieved a certain measure of popularity among recreational drug users in recent years. But because of its powerful disorienting effects, it is not one most people use repeatedly.

The DEA has had the drug under consideration for several years, but has yet to announce any plans to move it under the rubric of the Controlled Substances Act. Several states, most recently Illinois, and a handful of local municipalities, have banned it.

It is time that Nebraska joined that group, Bruning said. "Salvia is a powerful hallucinogen that can be purchased legally. This legislation will make it illegal and put it on par with other powerful drugs like peyote, psychedelic mushrooms and LSD," said Attorney General Bruning. "Several other states have already made salvia illegal. It's time to add Nebraska to the list."

In the measure he describes as "protecting Nebraska kids," Bruning would submit them -- and Nebraska adults -- to up to five years in prison for possessing the plant, and to 20 years for selling it.

"Videos of teens using this common plant to get high have become an internet sensation," said Sen. Vickie McDonald of St. Paul, who will sponsor the legislation. "Nebraska needs to classify salvia divinorum and its active ingredient, salvinorin A, as a controlled substance in order to protect our children from a drug being portrayed as harmless when it's not."

Legislation: Illinois Joins Short List of States Banning Salvia Divinorum

As of January 1, possession of salvia divinorum in Illinois will be a felony. Before the legislature passed a bill this year, the obscure Mexican mint with hallucinogenic properties had been unregulated and freely sold at tobacco stores, "head shops," and even gas stations.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
"We decided to move forward rather than waiting for someone to be killed because of it," said state Rep. Dennis Reboletti (D-Elmhurst), the bill's sponsor. He told the Chicago Tribune it was necessary for Illinois to regulate the herb tightly because the federal government had failed to act. The DEA considers salvia a "drug of concern," but has so far not moved to schedule it under the Controlled Substances Act.

Salvia has traditionally been used in religious ceremonies by Mazatec Indians in southern Mexico, but in recent years, it has spread to the US and other countries, where it is easily available over the counter or via the Internet. At high doses, salvia can produce intense hallucinations, but those effects are short-lived, with a "trip" being over in a matter of minutes. It is not a drug experience that most users wish to repeatedly revisit.

But for Reboletti and his peers, the risk of teens and college students from salvia use are so great that it must be banned. "It's very likely that you could hurt yourself or hurt others while in this drug-induced state," he said.

But others said that given salvia's spiritual and medical uses and potential, banning it is too harsh. Crystal Basler, owner of a religious supply store in Carbondale, told the Tribune most of her customers were medical -- not recreational -- users. "Some people describe [the effect] as they get very relaxed, kind of like taking an anti-stress pill," Basler said. "The leaf is very, very mild. There's no reason to ever make the leaf illegal. A lot of women buy it for PMS depression."

Salvia should be regulated, but not banned, she said. "I'm a big fan of it being regulated," Basler said. "But it shouldn't be illegal because you're interfering with people's right to choose in terms of their health care and religious following."

Salvia has already been made a Schedule I drug under state laws in Delaware, Louisiana, and Missouri, as well as a handful of towns around the country. Bills to ban it have also been brought in Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas, but have so far not succeeded.

People are Licking Toads Again

The harder you try to keep people sober, the sooner they will run off in search of new and bizarre ways get super wasted. For one thing, certain kinds of toads have drugs in them and you can get wicked high just by licking one.
A 21-year-old man has been accused of using a toad to get high.

Clay County sheriff's deputies said David Theiss, of Kansas City, possessed a Colorado River toad with the intention of using it as a hallucinogenic.

Experts said it's possible to lick the toad's venom glands to achieve psychedelic effects. [KMBC.com]
So what's the penalty for toad possession, anyway? And how the hell do they know what you're gonna use it for? In the interest of public safety, I've compiled these handy harm reduction tips for toad-tasting troublemakers:
1. Licking Colorado River toads produces psychedelic effects. Licking poison dart frogs produces instant death.
2. If police ask what your toads are for, don't say "Oh, I was gonna lick 'em and get f*cked up, officer."
3. Frogs with long tails and no legs are snakes. Don't lick snakes.
4. If your toad turns into a prince, stop licking it. You've had enough.
5. Don't blog while frogging.
This awesome YouTube video says that hallucinogenic frog venom is only illegal if you extract it, and then goes on to explain exactly how to do that. So now I'm wondering how this young man got arrested to begin with. Was he wandering the street covered in toads mumbling prophecies of a terrible plague?

Whatever else is true, I doubt the drug war will prove effective in curbing frog venom consumption. But I'd give anything to see Mark Souder standing before Congress demanding action against these subversive amphibians stupifying our society with their psychedelic secretions.
Location: 
United States

Drug Scare: Kids in Florida are Getting High by Sniffing Feces

You can urine test them. You can take away their financial aid for college. But you can't stop the kids from getting high. Some people will try anything, and I don't think arresting them is going to help:
Information Bulletin
New Drug – JENKEM

On 09/19/07 Cpl. Disarro received and email from a concerned parent regarding a new drug called “Jenkem”. The parent advised their child learned about this drug through various conversations with several students at Palmetto Ridge High.

Jenkem originated in Africa and other third world countries by fermenting raw sewage to create a gas which is inhaled to achieve a high. Jenkem is now a popular drug in American Schools. Jenkem is a homemade substance which consists of fecal matter and urine. The fecal matter and urine are placed in a bottle or jar and covered most commonly with a balloon. The container is then placed in a sunny area for several hours or days until fermented. The contents of the container will separate and release a gas, which is captured in the balloon. Inhaling the gas is said to have a euphoric high similar to ingesting cocaine but with strong hallucinations of times past. [Snopes]

This doesn't sound like a good idea. But what shall we do about it? You can't pop people for poop possession, or piss-test people for piss sniffing. Should we launch a massive public education campaign warning kids that fermenting their excrement and breathing in the resulting fumes will get them wasted? That could backfire.

So I don't know what the solution is. For starters, we should wait to see if this is a real problem or just another hysterical response to a couple gross, though isolated, incidents. If there really is a rising trend of Florida youths sniffing fermented feces, maybe it's just an overreaction to the Miami DEA Chief's recent claim that marijuana will kill you.

Update: The rumor site Snopes, from which this story emerged, has updated the accuracy status of this rumor from "undetermined" to "false." It's unclear what prompted the change, but it looks like this whole story might just be a crock of...

Location: 
United States

In Memoriam: Dr. John Beresford

(courtesy Gaia Media Foundation and Erowid)

Dr. John Beresford died on September 2, 2007 in a hospital in Canada. British-born John Beresford began his psychedelic research interests in 1961, when he resigned his post as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the New York Medical College and founded the Agora Scientific Trust, the world's first research organization devoted to investigating the effects of LSD. In contrast to Leary's invitation to "tune in, turn on and drop out," Beresford wanted to keep LSD in proper perspective as a tool of scientifically trained specialists.

He spent the next several decades working in psychiatry until 1991, when he resigned and founded the Committee on Unjust Sentencing, a group focused on the cause of people imprisoned on psychedelics-related charges. Beresford testified in front of the US Sentencing Commission and spoke out on his passion in many forums. In his later years he lived in Canada and continued to correspond with psychedelic prisoners.

At the international LSD Symposium in 2006, at the occasion of the 100th birthday of Albert Hofmann in Basel, Switzerland, Beresford presented the talk "Psychedelic Agents and the Structure of Consciousness: Stages in a Session Using LSD and DMT." Beresford was known for his outspokenness and persistence on many topics, and is fondly remembered for his tireless devotion to the causes he championed. He laid in state for four days, untouched, a Buddhist tradition, and was cremated later. His ashes mixed with rose petals and rice will be given to the river that flows through the Tibetan monastery he was closely affiliated with, as he asked.

Beresford, who described the discovery of LSD as possibly the most critical event in human history, remarked: "Take it once and you know that all you've known about consciousness is wrong." (From The Acid Queen, Robert Hunter, Chapter 7 of The Storming of the Mind, McClelland and Stewart Ltd., ©Robert Hunter, 1971)

Visit http://www.erowid.org/culture/characters/beresford_john/beresford_john.s... to learn more about Dr. Beresford.

Bans on hallucinogen spark drug debate

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Politico (VA)
URL: 
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0707/4889.html

Chronicle Book Review: "Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom," by Andy Letcher (2007, Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, 360 pp, $25.95 HB.)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor, Drug War Chronicle

British historian (and psychedelic folk band member) Andy Letcher has produced a charmingly written, carefully researched, revisionist history of psychedelic mushrooms. While his findings may disappoint the most severely committed mushroom spiritualists, the journey is an eye-opening pleasure for anyone with an interest in matters psychedelic.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/shroomcover.jpg
In the past half-century, thanks to intrepid psychedelic adventurers like banker-turned-mystic Gordon Wasson, anthropologist-turned-shaman Michael Harner, and myco-promoter Terence McKenna, a wonderful and powerful mythology has grown up around the fantastic fungus.

It goes something like this: Through sacred use of the magic mushrooms, shamans from Siberia to Mexico were able to see visions, heal the sick, and talk with the gods. Santa Claus himself, with his gnomic appearance and red and white attire, is a symbolic representation of the amanita muscaria, or fly-agaric, mushroom. The mushroom was the mystery in ancient Greece's Eleusinian Mysteries, it was the soma of the Riga Veda, it -- not bread and wine -- is what Jesus ate at the last supper. The Druids used it at Stonehenge. The magic mushroom is the basis of religion, and evidence of its hidden cult can be found on everything from medieval Catholic church doors to ancient rock-paintings in the African desert.

There's more: Mushrooms are actually a "machine consciousness" representing a different dimension… or something like that. I get a little fuzzy on the finer arcana of myco-mythology.

Letcher, historian that he is, takes these claims on one by one, examines them, and, sadly for the myco-cultists, finds them lacking in historical substance. "There is not a single instance of a magic mushroom being preserved in the archaeological record anywhere," he writes. "We really do not know, one way or the other, whether the ancients worshipped the holy spores of God. If they did, they left not a single piece of evidence of having done so."

There is little evidence of sacramental, shamanic mushroom yet except for isolated tribes in Siberia, and even there, the evidence suggests that mushrooms were as much to be partied with as to be worshiped. Also in Mexico, where Gordon Wasson famously met Mazatec curandera (shaman) Maria Sabina and ate the "flesh of the gods" in 1956. As Letcher notes, Maria Sabina was hardly the primitive priestess of myth, but mythic she became, especially after Wasson ushered in the beginning of the psychedelic age with his publication of an article in Life magazine about his experiences.

That was certainly a seismic shift in Western attitudes toward the magic mushroom. Up until the mid-20th Century, magic mushroom intoxication was rare, almost always accidental, and almost always considered as poisoning. Man, how things have changed! While interest in psychedelic mushrooms, particularly the psilocybes, took a back seat to LSD in the tripped-out 1960s, the relatively milder mushrooms have remained popular among the psychedelic set ever since.

Although they are illegal in the US, aficionados here can legally purchase "idiot proof" spore kits (which contain no psilocybin, the prescribed ingredient), and the shrooms themselves remain fuzzily legal in some European countries. England banned the sale of and possession of mushrooms in 2005, as did Japan, but there is little evidence Bobbies are out chasing down mushroom-pickers.

Still, while it appears the magic mushroom is here to stay, it is decidedly an acquired taste. Most people who try them try them only once or twice; only a relative handful become serious shroom-heads. And while Letcher tries resolutely to stay clear of politics, the relative rareness of mushroom use and the lack of demonstrated harms leads him to criticize the British prohibition as "heavy-handed, motivated more by political concerns than any sensible evaluation of the evidence." Indeed, Letcher writes, "prohibition may prove to be a retrograde step in terms of harm reduction," as hapless users pick the wrong mushrooms, are sold substitutes, or are afflicted by a criminal justice system more harmful than the shrooms themselves.

Shrooms is a cultural history worth reading, rigorous in its analysis, incisive in its reporting, and enticing with its descriptions of bemushroomed reality. It makes me want to go out and order one of those "idiot proof" kits myself.

Remedial Psychedelic Ethics 101: Don't Dose People

You wouldn’t think people who are prominent members of the psychedelic community would need a reminder about elementary decency, but, sadly, that appears to be the case. Psychedelic drugs, like mushrooms, peyote, and LSD, are not candy. They can be deeply disorienting and disturbing, even for veteran psychonauts, and for people with no experience with or knowledge of them, they can be absolutely terrifying. It would seem to be a fundamental of psychedelic ethics that you do not inflict the experience on people against their will or without their knowledge. To do so is not only disrespectful of the consciousness of the victim of such a stunt, it is also disrespectful of the psychedelic substance that inner consciousness explorers claim to hold in such reverence. But some people just don't get it. Last night, I received a call from an old friend who reported being dosed by someone who was part of the entourage of an elite clique who were putting on an event in a large Eastern city. Now, my friend was fortunate enough to have some experience with psychedelics, so the experience was not absolutely terrifying. But it was most unpleasant. And that's should be no surprise. For at least 40 years, people have been talking about the importance of "set and setting" in determining how a person will respond to psychedelics. Set refers to the person's mental state—what the person knows and expects of psychedelics, whether that person has underlying psychiatric problems, whether that person is prepared for the experience. Setting refers to the physical/notional location of the experience—is it a soothing place, does it take place within some ritual or another, is it loud and noisy and chaotic?—that, along with set, has an impact on the psychedelic experience. Dosing someone with psychedelics without his or her knowledge wreaks havoc with set. People need to prepare themselves for taking drugs like these; to have them inflicted on you even if you like them is unethical. Being dosed also prevents the victim from having any say in setting—here you are, your mind is melting, and that's that. Dosing people is thus double-plus ungood. No names are being named at this point. There are efforts afoot to see if the perpetrators will make proper amends. The most positive outcome is that the people involved will be educated about things they should already know and understand intuitively. For the rest of us who are inclined to dabble with such substances, let's try extra hard to be respectful of each other and these very special substances.
Location: 
United States

LSD as Therapy? Write about It, Get Barred from US

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
The Tyee (Canada)
URL: 
http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/04/23/Feldmar/

Salvia Divinorum: Vermont Town Gets Fight Over Sales Ban

Last week, Drug War Chronicle reported on an escalating campaign to criminalize salvia divinorum, the fast- and short-acting hallucinogenic Mexican member of the mint family whose use has seeped into the popular consciousness among North American psychonauts in the past decade. The story opened with the town of Middlebury, Vermont, declaring a public health emergency to stop a local tobacconist from selling the potent herb.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid)
Now, the store owner is fighting back. The day our story ran, James Stone, proprietor of the Emporium Tobacco and Gift Shop, announced he will appeal the order and has hired an attorney to fight it. "If they had come to me first, I would have worked with them," Stone said.

But that's not what happened. The town council acted on the matter without notifying Stone, who only learned of the ban when a reporter called him the next day. The council acted after Police Chief Tom Hanley reported that the town school resource officer had become aware that teenagers were using salvia. While Hanley could not name any cases where anyone had suffered any adverse effects from ingesting the drug, he urged the council not to take that chance. "It's a tragedy waiting to happen," he said.

Hanley also made the odd claim that the hallucinogenic effects of salvia, which last for less than 20 minutes, can be extended for several hours if the user is drinking alcohol. "You can't have kids with developing brains putting this stuff in their bodies," Hanley warned. "The effects are different for different individuals and you just don't know what's going to happen."

But the Middlebury ban is not just against sales to minors. It is a total ban.

Salvia has been a "substance of concern" for the DEA for several years, but remains legal under federal law. Five states and a handful of municipalities have criminalized it, and similar efforts are afoot in seven other states this year. But Middlebury is unique in having chosen the public health emergency route.

That's raising eyebrows among civil libertarians. "It sounds very arbitrary and very broad and very subjective," said Allen Gilbert, executive director of Vermont's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "How does one person make the determination that something is a danger?" Gilbert said.

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