Salvia Divinorum

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Salvia Divinorum: Ban Bill Moving in Minnesota, Age Restriction Bill Moving in Maryland

At least 17 states have passed laws regulating salvia divinorum, most of them with outright bans on its possession and distribution. Now, two more states, Maryland and Minnesota, are poised to join them, the former with legislation limiting its possession to adults and the latter with an outright ban.

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Salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
Salvia, a Mexican member of the mint family, is a powerful, fast-acting, short-live hallucinogen. Traditionally used for shamanic purposes in Mexico, it has in the past few years developed a following among youthful experimenters and sophisticated psychonauts alike.

While the DEA has been monitoring salvia as a "drug of concern" for the past nine years, it has yet to move to add it to its list of controlled substances. But since 2004, when Delaware became the first state to ban salvia, more and more states have moved to fill the regulatory void.

Minnesota may be the next to respond to salvia by prohibiting it. The state Senate Monday passed SF 2773, which makes possession of any amount of salvia or its psychoactive ingredient, salvinorin A, guilty of misdemeanor and anyone selling salvia guilty of a gross misdemeanor. A companion measure, HF 2975, has passed the House Public Safety and Oversight Committee and awaits a House floor vote.

Carol Falkowski, director of the alcohol and drug abuse division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services told the Minnesota Daily the federal government had not regulated salvia because of a lack of evidence of its risks. "They don't have a preponderance of evidence about the negative consequences," she said, supporting the bill.

Maryland is taking a more enlightened approach. On Monday, the state Senate passed SB 17, which prohibits the distribution of salvia or salvinorin A to anyone under 21. Companion legislation has passed the House Judiciary Committee and awaits further action.

The bill is an improvement over a similar bill offered last year. Following the lead of Ocean City, which banned salvia several years ago, last year's bill would have simply criminalized the possession of distribution of the plant.

But last year, the ban bill ran into opposition led by the Drug Policy Alliance, which lobbied legislators with information about salvia's research potential and relative safety. It looks like that effort paid off.

For the record: State Department Report, NYC ODs drop, Guatemalan Top Cop & Head Narc Busted, Salvia Banned in Wisconsin

Even though there was no Chronicle last week--due to your editor's death-battle with a vicious Mexican bug; I only returned to the land of the living on Friday--things continued to happen anyway. Here are a handful of items that would have been in the Chronicle had there been one last week: On Monday, the State Department released its annual state on the world on drugs report. The report, called the 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy, was going to be the subject of a feature story last week before I got sick. I may still go with it this coming week. Also on Monday, the New York City Health Department reported overdose deaths fell in 2008 to the lowest level since 1999. OD fatalities fell from 874 in 2006 to 666 in 2008. Increased use of naloxane, an opioid agonist used to undo overdoses may get some of the credit. On Tuesday, Guatemala's national police chief and its head narc were arrested for links to drug traffickers and for the murders of five policemen. Police Chief Batlazar Gomez and anti-drug head Nelly Bonilla were arrested during an "investigation into a drug robbery (in April 2009) in Amatitlan, which those detained today are believed to have participated in", said Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez. Five police officers were killed during the robbery. The pair currently face charges of conspiracy, breaking and entering, abuse of power, making illegal arrests, drug trafficking, obstruction of justice, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. On Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law a bill banning salvia divinorum. That makes Wisconsin the 19th state to move against Sally D. A few states have limited its sale to adults, but most of those states have simply banned salvia. The Wisconsin bill, AB 186, bans the manufacture, distribution, or sales of salvia—although not its possession—and backs it up with a $10,000 fine. I'm back at it now, and that means the Chronicle will be back on Friday. In the meantime, I'll most likely post a story or two in the blog just to see if you're paying attention.

Europe: Russia Bans Salvia, Hawaiian Woodrose, Blue Lotus Flowers, Synthetic Cannabinoids

The Russian government announced Thursday that it has added a number of substances to its controlled substance list and banned their sale. The substances include salvia divinorum, Hawaiian wood rose, Blue Lotus flowers, and 23 different synthetic cannabinoids. Many of the substances are used in "smoking mixes" by users seeking psychoactive effects.

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salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
The ban had its genesis in a proposal by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Development last month. The ministry proposed tightening controls over the sale and consumption of smoking mixes and submitted its proposal to the government for coordination.

Salvia is already banned in a number of countries, including Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Sweden. It is not illegal under US federal law, but its sales have been banned or restricted in about a dozen states. Synthetic cannabindoids, marketed under names like "K2" and "Spice" have been banned in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. A move is afoot in the Kansas legislature to ban them there.

Feature: At the Statehouse -- Salvia Banned in Four More States This Year

Hysteria over salvia divinorum, the fast-acting, short-lived psychedelic member of the mint family, continued in state legislatures this year. Although after five years, the DEA has not found a reason to add salvia to the federal list of controlled substances, that hasn't stopped state legislators from trying. This year, four more states joined the list of those that have criminalized it, while bills to do the same were introduced in seven others.

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salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
Next week, we will conclude our review of drug policy-related issues in state legislatures with a look at sentencing reform, drug testing, meth-related measures, and some odds and ends.

Salvia Bills That Passed

Nebraska: Salvia Divinorum became a Schedule I controlled substance in February, after LB 123 passed the unicameral legislature on a 44-0 vote that same month. The governor quickly signed the bill.

North Carolina: A bill to prohibit the use, possession, sale, or manufacture of Salvia Divinorum, SB 138, passed the House on a 45-0 vote in May and the Senate on a 96-15 vote in August. It was signed into law that same month and went into effect December 1.

Ohio: Salvia Divinorum became a Schedule I controlled substance in April, 90 days after Gov. Ted Strickland (D) signed a bill banning the plant that passed the legislature late last year.

South Dakota: Possession of less than six ounces of salvia divinorum became a misdemeanor and possession of more became a felony after HB 1090 passed the House 67-2 and the Senate 34-0 in February. Gov. Mike Round (R) signed the "emergency" legislation in March, and it went into effect immediately. Curiously, the bill does not criminalize salvia sales.

Salvia Bills That Did Not or Have Not Passed

Alabama: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 475, was introduced in February. It was assigned to the Judiciary Committee, where it has been sitting since May.

Kentucky: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 228, passed the House on a 99-0 vote in February and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where no action has since occurred.

Maryland: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 8, died in March after being reported unfavorably out of the House Judiciary Committee. A companion bill, SB 9, died without any action being taken.

Michigan: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 4849, was introduced in April, referred to the Committee on Health Policy and promptly went nowhere. Its companion measure, SB 570, met a similar fate.

New Jersey: SB 2436 and its companion measure, AB 1323, would make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance. Both were both introduced at the end of 2008 for the 2009-2010 legislative session, and neither has gone anywhere.

Pennsylvania: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, SB 769, was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in April. It hasn't moved since. A companion measure, HB 2037, was introduced in October and sits before the House Judiciary Committee.

Texas: A bill that would make it a crime to provide Salvia Divinorum to minors, SB 257, was introduced last November. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 30-1 vote in April. In the House, the bill was approved by the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in May, and has done nothing since. Another bill, HB 126, which would make Salvia a controlled substance in Penalty Group III (along with LSD and pentobarbital, among others), was introduced last November, referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in February, and allowed to die there in March.

Salvia Divinorum: North Carolina Latest State to Ban or Regulate Sally D

The Tarheel State is about to become the latest to ban salvia divinorum, the potent but fast-acting hallucinogen that has become increasingly popular among young drug experimenters in recent years. A bill that would do that, SB 138, now sits on the desk of Gov. Beverly Perdue, who is expected to sign it. Last week, the House approved the measure by a vote of 94-15. It earlier passed the Senate on a unanimous 45-0 vote.

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salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
The bill makes possession of salvia an infraction, a minor crime punishable by a maximum $25 fine. A third possession offense would be charged as a misdemeanor. The bill has no separate provisions for charging manufacturing or sales offenses.

The bill includes two exemptions. The first is for ornamental gardening; the second is for university-affiliated researchers.

North Carolina will join 14 other states and a handful of towns and cities that have banned or regulated salvia in recent years, the most recent being the resort town of Ocean City, Maryland, earlier this month. Salvia is not a prohibited controlled substance under federal law, although the DEA is evaluating whether it should be, a process that has gone on for more than five years now.

Salvia Divinorum: Man in First Bust Gets Deferred Sentence

Bismarck, North Dakota, resident Kenneth Rau, the first person arrested in the US on salvia divinorum possession charges, was sentenced Tuesday to a deferred sentence. Rau had pleaded guilty the same day to Class C felony possession of salvia, as well as two misdemeanors, possession of paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

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Kenneth Rau
Rau was arrested in April 2008 when police looking for his son searched his home and found salvia, numerous herbs, and a bit of weed and a pipe. North Dakota legislators had banned salvia the previous year, but Rau said he was unaware of that law and obtained his salvia leaf through eBay.

South Central District Judge Tom Schneider sentenced Rau to a three-year deferred imposition of sentence. That means Rau will be on supervised probation for three years, but the charges will be removed if he successfully completes it. He must also undergo a chemical dependency evaluation and any treatment if necessary, and pay $575 in court costs.

Rau originally was charged with possession of salvia with intent to deliver, but that charge was reduced to drop the intent to deliver portion upon further research of the substance, Rau's attorney, Ben Pulkrabek, said. Rau had obtained about eight ounces of salvia leaf for $32. Salvia sold commercially typically comes in concentrated form, not raw leaf.

Burleigh County Prosecutor Cynthia Feland recommended the deferred sentences, noting that Rau had no recent criminal history, no history of prior drug use, and had purchased the leaf on the Internet before its criminal status in the state was widely known. "Salvia is a relatively new drug having been added to the controlled substance list," she said.

After his day in court, Rau told the Bismarck Tribune he was not surprised at his sentence. "It's kind of what I expected, "he said. "I didn't think I would get any better from a jury trial."

Rau told the newspaper he did not think salvia should have been criminalized without more evidence. He also said the plant could have medicinal uses.

Salvia Divinorum: Ohio's First Bust Came Day Before Law Went Into Effect

An Ohio law criminalizing the possession of salvia divinorum went into effect Tuesday, but that didn't stop an over-eager Butler County sheriff's deputy from arresting a man for it Monday or Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones crowing about being the first to bust someone under the new law. Jones sent out a press release touting his coup at 11:00am Monday, but had to retract it before the day was over.

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Google ads for salvia on web page reporting salvia arrest, North Dakota, April 2008
Salvia divinorum is a fast-acting, short-lived psychedelic member of the mint family traditionally used by Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico. It is not a federally controlled substance, but has been an object of concern among prohibitionist-leaning legislators across the country. Ohio is the latest of about a dozen states to pass laws criminalizing its possession or sale.

The bust came when Deputy Tim Andrews pulled over a Virginia man in a traffic stop Monday morning. After spotting a bag of marijuana in the vehicle, Deputy Andrews searched the car and found another bag marked "salvia divinorum." The Virginia man was charged with felony drug possession for the salvia, misdemeanor drug trafficking for a small amount of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia for having a scale. (Under Ohio law, possession of up to a quarter pound of marijuana is decriminalized.)

But shortly after the press release went out, a sheriff's detective questioned whether the charges were premature. The detective was correct, and the felony salvia charge was dismissed. The man's marijuana and paraphernalia charges remain.

"I don't have a whole lot (of sympathy) for this guy," Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He was coming from one place to another. He admitted selling a bunch of dope in Michigan. It's not like salvia was the only thing he got arrested for."

Yes, but it wasn't a crime when he got arrested for it.

Salvia Divinorum: Possession -- But Not Sale -- Now Banned in South Dakota

South Dakota has become the latest state to ban salvia divinorum, the hallucinogenic plant used for centuries by Mexican shamans whose recreational use has become noticeable in the US in recent years. Oddly enough, as the bill was amended in back and forth between the state House and Senate, legislators forgot to specifically make it a crime to distribute the herb.

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Google ads for salvia on web page reporting salvia arrest
The bill does not go into effect until it is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds (R), who has indicated he will sign it. Once he does, the salvia ban goes into effect immediately because the bill declared an "emergency" regarding use of the fast-acting, short-duration psychedelic.

The bill creates two salvia possession offenses -- a misdemeanor for possession of less than two ounces of the plant or its active substance, Salvinorin A, and a felony for possession of more than two ounces. A misdemeanor charge can earn you up to a year in jail, while the Class 6 felony would be worth up to two years in the state penitentiary.

Rep. Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) urged the House to reject the Senate version of the bill because it did not specifically outlaw distribution of salvia. But other lawmakers, eager to move ahead, said banning possession was a good enough start.

As the Chronicle noted last week, South Dakota is only the latest state to fall prey to salvia mania. Nebraska banned it a week ago, and similar measures are before legislatures in Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Thirteen states -- Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia -- have classified salvia as Schedule I under state drug laws. Make that 14 now that South Dakota has joined the list. Three more -- Louisiana, Maine, and Tennessee -- restrict the sale of the plant. Maine and California ban it only for minors.

Prohibition: Salvia Mania Sweeps State Legislatures as Bans Spread Across County

After more than five years of examination, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has yet to find that salvia divinorum is dangerous or addictive enough to merit placement as a scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act, but that isn't stopping legislators across the land from moving to criminalize it or restrict its sales despite the lack of any real evidence that it does anything more than take its users on a psychedelic journey of a no more than a few minutes duration.

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salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
Since the plant was first banned in Delaware in 2004, a handful of states each year have made efforts to prohibit the increasingly popular psychedelic. This year, the trickle is turning into a tide despite a rising chorus of opposition from scientists, researchers, public health experts, and people who believe they should be able to control their own consciousness.

The Nebraska legislature voted 44-0 last Friday to add salvia and its active ingredient, Salvinorin A, to Schedule I of its controlled substance list, the same as LSD and psychedelic mushrooms. The state of Nebraska is going to save its youth from themselves by sending them to prison for up to five years for having some leaf or extract, and up to 20 years for selling it.

The man behind the campaign to ban the plant, Attorney General Jon Bruning, pronounced himself satisfied. "I'm pleased with the legislature's vote today to ban salvia," Bruning said. "I think it is important that salvia not be allowed to be used by members of the public."

Nebraska's northern neighbor, South Dakota, is on the verge of doing the same. A bill pronouncing the salvia "threat" an emergency easily passed the House two weeks ago and a Senate committee this week. Under the emergency legislation, a ban would go into effect immediately upon the governor's signature of the bill.

And the Kentucky House Tuesday voted 99-0 to make it illegal to possess, buy, sell, or cultivate salvia. The sponsor of that bill, Rep. Will Coursey (R-Benton) told his colleagues the plant was a safety risk.

Meanwhile, similar bills have been filed or proposed in Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Thirteen states -- Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia -- have classified salvia as Schedule I under state drug laws. Three more -- Louisiana, Maine, and Tennessee -- restrict the sale of the plant. Maine and California ban it only for minors.

Medical Marijuana: South Dakota Bill Killed, House Votes to Ban Salvia Divinorum for Good Measure

The 2010 South Dakota medical marijuana bill, HB 1127, died a newborn as a House committee voted to table it only a week after it was introduced. The bill failed in the House Health and Human Services Committee on a 9-4 vote after representatives of state law enforcement claimed it would make its job more difficult.

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bad legislating in the South Dakota badlands
The committee heard from a number of South Dakota medical marijuana patients, including Gulf War veteran Valerie Hannah of Deerfield. She testified that exposure to chemical weapons during her service left her suffering from chronic pain. Since first trying marijuana in 2001, she said, she had been able to quit using morphine.

"Medical marijuana seems to have been the best pain and anxiety relief I've received in the past 10 years," said Hannah, who was a spokesperson for the failed attempt in 2006 to pass a medical marijuana initiative. That effort garnered 48% of the popular vote.

Sioux Falls MS sufferer Patrick Lynch also testified. He said marijuana eased the symptoms of his disease and the side effects of other treatments he was taking. "By taking a few puffs after I take my shot, which is an injection, it eliminates both the headaches and the nausea that go along with it," Lynch said. "I'm not a pothead. I'm a human being with a disease."

South Dakota Chief Deputy Attorney General Charles McGuigan was much more concerned about potheads than with human beings suffering from disease. He told the panel his office is opposed to marijuana in any form.

The push for the bill came from long-time South Dakota marijuana activist Bob Newland and the organization South Dakotans for Safe Access, who are vowing to put the issue to the voters in another initiative in 2010. During the legislative session, Newland told solons this year was their chance to craft a medical marijuana bill; next year it will be his turn.

A backup bill, HB 1128, which would have allowed an affirmative medical necessity defense, also died this week. It was "deferred to the 41st legislative day" by the House Judiciary Committee. South Dakota's legislative session lasts 40 days.

Meanwhile, the South Dakota House Monday passed a bill, HB 1090 that would place salvia divinorum on Schedule I of the state's controlled substances list. The bill declares an "emergency," meaning it will go into effect 30 days from being signed into law.

"I'd like to have the drug off the street by the end of February", said Rep. Chuck Turbiville (R-Deadwood), the bill's prime sponsor. "It's just finding its way onto the Internet. It's just finding its way onto the street."

At least the House accepted an amendment by Rep. Larry Lucas (D-Mission) that would provide for a misdemeanor possession charge. Under the Lucas amendment, less than two ounces of salvia would be a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

South Dakota looks to be well down the path to criminalizing salvia, joining an accelerating trend among the states.

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