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Salvia Watch: Two More States and One City Act Against the Plant, and North Dakota Marks First Bust

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #532)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Aroused by videos of young people using salvia divinorum on YouTube and spurred on by law enforcement eager not to miss an opportunity, legislators across the country have this year been raising the alarm about the fast- and short-acting hallucinogenic herb, despite the lack of any evidence that its use is harmful. In the latest outbreaks of salvia mania, the South Carolina and Florida Houses have passed a bill to criminalize the plant, a Massachusetts town has banned it, and police in North Dakota -- one of a handful of states where it is already illegal -- announced their first salvia bust.

salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid)
On Wednesday, the Florida House passed HB 1363, which would ban salvia possession and place it on the state's Schedule I, along with marijuana and other psychedelics as drugs with no accepted medical use and "high potential for abuse."

Salvia has experienced "growing popularity among teens and young adults," said Rep. Mary Brandenburg (D-West Palm Beach), the bill's sponsor. It is not clear what evidence she based that claim on.

A companion Florida Senate bill to ban salvia has already cleared committees and is ready for a floor vote. If it passes and is signed into law by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, possession or sale of the drug would become a third degree felony in Florida.

Six days earlier, the South Carolina House passed HB 4687, which criminalizes salvia and puts it in the same category as marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy. The bill passed with little discussion on a lopsided 101-4 vote. After one more routine housekeeping vote, it heads to the Senate.

The bill was pushed by law enforcement and drug prevention groups despite little evidence it is being used in the state. Neither local law enforcement nor the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) officials consulted by The State newspaper were aware of any reports of its use.

"SLED hasn't seen this substance in South Carolina at this point, but we're certainly prepared to enforce this new law if it is passed," said Richard Hunton, SLED inspector.

North Dakota law enforcement had its chance earlier this month, when they arrested a Bismarck man for possessing eight ounces of salvia leaf. (The drug is most commonly ingested by smoking salvia extracts, which are significantly more potent than the leaf.) Kenneth Rau has been charged with salvia possession with intent to deliver in what North Dakota cops believe is the state's first salvia bust.

Now, they're looking for more, Lt. Bob Haas of the Bismarck Police told WDAY-TV6 News. "It sure looks like there could be a market, based on the amount he had. This is the first we've seen of it."

Even some towns and cities are getting in on the act. The most recent is West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, where city selectmen voted to ban the plant this week. Although Massachusetts is among the states considering action against the member of the mint family, the state was not moving fast enough for the West Bridgewater folks.

"What makes Salvia divinorum dangerous is that it has hallucinogenic properties like LSD and it can be purchased on the same Web site where you find Beanie Babies and baseball cards," Selectman Matthew Albanese said. "I can't imagine why the Drug Enforcement Agency has Salvia listed as a 'drug/chemical of concern' as opposed to a 'controlled substance,'" Albanese said.

Albanese might have asked the DEA. The Chronicle did three weeks ago, and DEA spokesperson Rogene Waite told us that the agency is following procedure by evaluating eight factors listed in the Controlled Substances Act in determining whether or not to schedule a drug. Unlike Massachusetts selectman or various state legislatures, (this time at least) the DEA seems to actually be waiting for evidence before it acts.

Since 2005, seven states have restricted use of the substance. And about a dozen other states have similar legislation pending.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Ok so I'm familiar with Salvia only because out of curiosity a friend of mine and I ordered some about a year ago (we were 26 years old at the time). We tried it. The conclusion is thats its really not all that great anyway. It doesn't provide any kind of real high and has only mild halucinatory effects that are incredibly short lived. We were smoking a 6x Extract. The only side effect that was worth anything was watching other people use it. We introduced it at a party to see if it was just us who didn't like it and there wasn't a soul there (about 45 random people) who said they would either use it again and they would never purchase it. In a failed drug war policy they are now going after a "drug" that isn't worth the money you spend, doesn't do much if anything for you, and altogether is put down after a try or two. I still have the whole little jar at my house with a great layer of dust across the top! They need to get real and address some real policy problems with the drug war to actually help people instead of trying to squeeze an extra buck off of imaginary issues. As one who is suffering from one time infringement penalties that will strap my already thin wallet (especially in this economy) for at least another year (first time offense mind you and only over a small amount of marijuana) I have to say that the backward policies and greed of the US government never fails to amaze me. To hell with all of em!

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 2:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

When they start doing stuff like this over something idiotic if they are just doing it to advertise it. It would be interesting to know if some of these politician's constituents who are agitating this has any stock or financial gain coming from it....

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 3:32pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I was always under the impression that the nominal intent of the CSA was to protect the public from any harm(s) associated with street drug use. Along comes Salvia, with NO statistics indicating detrimental health effects on the users, NO statistics relating to hospital admissions for its' use, NO statistics indicating it presents a danger on the roadways, NO statistics indicating that it is popular enough that people might use it more than once, NO statistics indicating it has any sort of addiction potential, and NO statistics indicating any sort of organized criminal intent to produce and distribute it.

So why on earth is it being banned? Ten thousand times more harm is caused by the consumption of aspirin every year, but you can still buy THAT anywhere. One has to assume then that the only reason it is being made illegal is so that law enforcement agencies can cite it as yet another reason they need more funding, weapons and resources.

And in case anyone is of the opinion I'm just pulling this out of my ass, I'll admit that I've tried salvia, and like most people who have, have no interest in trying it again. But it most definitely ISN'T a threat requiring legislation.

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 5:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

is produced by Big Pharma,which pretty much runs our Supreme Court /Justice's legal,the odds are better that you'll survive than die from its use,It matters not that pot has no deaths associated w/it unless you're unfortunate enough to be around when macho DEA man busts down your door w/ both barrels blasting' because he knows theirs a joint smoking kid on the other side of that door and'' pot'' ladies and gentlemen is the ''evil weed'' ....We've the best GOV. money can buy! it?............donl

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 5:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I agree, seems like it's not enough to decide that it doesn't have any benfits, they should only ban it if it is harmful. I guess the problem is that no one seems to lose significant votes because they are anti-drug, and if anything want to look like they are strongly against any drugs.

Everyone should call their congressmen or senator(I already have) and complain, like salvia or hate it there is no reason to make it illegal. As a matter of fact if it's fairly harmless but people don't like it then maybe it's great for scaring people away from the more illegal drugs.

Mon, 04/21/2008 - 1:42am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Long time ago in Mexico,the high [Mayan] preists used it ''the strongest'' just before cutting out the heart of his current sacrifice,I'm not saying it was a ritual,but it was done,considering who was doing the cutting,afterwards he'd smoke some weed and mellow out!...probably quite traumatic cutting out the heart of someone on a stone altar atop a pyramid with all those people watching!....also read a little blurb of a fellow after smoking some salvia thought he could fly! 8 floors up,didn't quite make it, mostly I hear it's nothing w/nothing, pot does the job this shit doesn't and I'll also guess It has to do w/ your reaction to it,!......if I need to fly I'' stick to airplanes!........don't know the name but theirs another herb out there that's used in all kinds of food ,but alone could be semi-hallucinijenic....waitin' for someone to outlaw that too,....that'll leave us w/ strictly the man made harmfull shit! ''The numming down of America!.......donl

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 5:34pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Owww so someone got high from this stuff, quick outlaw it! So what about wild lettece or poppy seeds or perhaps some other harmless herb. Americans, wake up and smell the smoke. Where theres smoke theres fire and we have a big one lit on our rights. I dont know about you but I dont need mommy and daddy to tell me what I can and can't put in my body and as of right now we have a whole section of our government dedicated to do just that, all except for cigs and booze that is still ok to poison yourself with.

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 9:37pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Owww so someone got high from this stuff, quick outlaw it! So what about wild lettece or poppy seeds or perhaps some other harmless herb. Americans, wake up and smell the smoke. Where theres smoke theres fire and we have a big one lit on our rights. I dont know about you but I dont need mommy and daddy to tell me what I can and can't put in my body and as of right now we have a whole section of our government dedicated to do just that, all except for cigs and booze that is still ok to poison yourself with.

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 9:41pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

6X extract? Is that by the homeopathic nomenclature, wher that'd mean an E-6 dilution, i.e. 1 to a million? Decimals, not centesimals, right?

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 10:34pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

anon at 1:21 your experiences are not necessarily representative. Anybody considering using salvia, please read up on it a little on erowid because it can actually be extremely powerful. Which is not to say that it should be criminalized, just that people shouldn't be dumb about putting unknown chemicals in their body on the basis of what one person wrote on the web.

Sat, 04/19/2008 - 3:07am Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

Alexander Shulgin’s recommendation for trying any new mind altering substance is to start with small dosages and then work one’s way up to higher concentrations to reach an optimal plateau.

That’s how I tried salvia many years ago; first by smoking the raw plant material (1x), and then working up through the commercially designated, increasing concentrations of 6x and 17x for a total of three, separate trials.

The mental effects were interesting, but not great.  There was no mood enhancement during any of the trials, which made me think there could never be a solid recreational market for the product as one sees with marijuana, or with any other illicit drug, for that matter.  I never tried salvia again.

If the currently simmering panic over salvia suddenly boils over into a nationwide prohibition, it will establish once and for all that irrationality rules the minds of drug warriors, and little or nothing else.  Irrationality is a major red flag.  Such thinking often translates to become the insipient basis for some new flavor of fascism.


Sat, 04/19/2008 - 5:09pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If kids are unmotivated to do this drug, after an initial trial, Who then is this prohibition targeting?

I'll tell you. Its targeting shamans, particularly of the ethnic persuation. This is codified racism and a violation of religious liberty, plan and simple. Land of the Free, my hiney!

Mon, 04/21/2008 - 11:16am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

6X just isn't enough. Try 20x and see if it isn't at least much more powerful. You may still dislike it. Setting is important with salvia. It is not a party drug.

Mon, 04/21/2008 - 6:01pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Now that they have a new drug to complain about, they are more than happy to welcome it. It doesn't matter if the public uses it or not, only that it can be used to discredit the drug reform orgs.

Tue, 04/22/2008 - 3:48am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Our Local,state and federal government needs a wakeup call. Oh look some kids a getting high lets countinue on a path of failed policies and pass laws banning a plant. A plant!!! WTF why are we just standing around and letting these crooks countinue to chip away at our civil liberties? We have become weak minded and they know it.

All this is going to do is create another black market and violence where there was none before all because of a kneejerk reation caused by parents watching youtube. I say its the parents DUTY to know what their children are doing. Find out who these civil servents are that voted for this crap and ask them why they have time to worry a plant and not the border,the war,immigration,states rights,and the right for me to bare arms proudly. Lets all wake up and look at what is going on and get involved.

Tue, 04/22/2008 - 6:18pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I have done some basic research about this drug. The true purpose of suppressing Salvia's use is not about prevention and reduction but how the populace reacts to their draconian passages of laws. Their hurried and coordinated response to this imagenary "threat" reminds me of another event: an emergency drill. If you analyze carefully the timeline and the actions taken by local and state legislators, you would agree that only a coordinated, highly organized network of people working towards the same goal could achieve such a feat. This wias just another test to gauge just how asleep and apathetic the American public is towards itself and its government.

Wed, 04/23/2008 - 2:07pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Arrests and force are not a means by which a government should care for and protect its citizens. If salvia, or any other drug, is harmful, the government's duty is to educate people about its potentially harmful effects and help them from being harmed by it - as would a friend or family member.

Wed, 04/23/2008 - 8:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

its a way 4 them to get people to react in a way that will help thme market NEW drug warrior tatics,like pulling over cars that have people smoking a ciggerette cuz they have way to many smokable drugs now on the street,ha. We are heading into a recession and they care more about another stupid plant then families not being able to eat or loose thier homes. I smoke it once,threw the whold bag away,tsted like crap,burnt my throat and didt do anything that whas near LSD..and i ahve taken many hits of acid and peeps,salivia is more prrof to what has been said, we are so wore out that we are all becoming robots to the system and the system is ADDICTED to passing bill's,, we are LAWING ourselfes into extinction....cop knocks on my door to snoop around he's gonna gonna be sniffing lead..and not from a pencil...they want to treat me like a criminal over a plant? Im gonna givem a criminal and a crime..its called a 187!!

Wed, 04/23/2008 - 10:51pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.Canada Why would they demand evidence for this plant when they have none for the rest?This is sop in the drug war.It never makes sense,it just gives them another reason to fill up those private prisons.It's become a self propelling machine that just rolls over anything in it's path.Reasons to be filed later.

Fri, 04/25/2008 - 2:05am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

You know nothing I did 120x extract and it is a complete dissasociative, a religious not recreational experience. You don't know who you are and may be someone else for up to 10 minutes, without a sitter it could be very dangerous. (watch Total Recall). Regardless you can't ban a plant. Look at all the great things cannabis Sativa can and is doing for us now in medicine. Certain cannabinoids have been shown to stop allsheimers, atherosclerosis, and slow cancer growth. This is not a seperation of church and state, my religion specifically states I may propagate "EVERY seed bearing plant." Please mail your representatives about the reprocussions of condeming a plant for its hallucinogenic properties, when down the road it may have a very legitimate medical use.

Fri, 04/25/2008 - 5:14am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The man arrested had (1x) leaves. He would have to smoke all so-called 900 doses to get the effect of 1 dose. Clearly, the Bismarck District Attorney is smoking paint thinner.

Mon, 04/28/2008 - 2:06pm Permalink

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