Despite medical research, salvia may be outlawed
by Emily Murray, ECollegeTimes.com
Thousands of people in the Valley drive by it every day. This small unobtrusive green plant grows along many of Arizona’s highways unnoticed by the average commuter; recently, however, it has caught the attention of lawmakers across the country.
Salvia divinorum is a member of the sage genus and the mint family. When smoked or chewed the plant is known to have a dissociative hallucinogenic effect that is short lived but intense; so intense, in fact, it is recognized as the most potent hallucinogenic plant researchers have ever discovered. In Arizona, one of the plant’s native environments, it can be purchased in many area smoke shops or even online by those 18 and over.
Arizona State University graduate Cathy Ly describes her experience smoking salvia as cartoon like. “I just remember seeing the Pokemon on my comforter pop out and I remember laughing for no reason,” she says. “It lasted about 10 minutes at most.”
While salvia affects everyone differently, for many it is not an enjoyable experience.
“Breezy,” an employee of a Tempe based smoke shop, has tried the drug and whole heartedly discourages anyone from ever trying it; he also believes it should be made illegal in Arizona.
“It’s three seconds of complete terror followed by three years of a mind fuck. I woke up from constant tumbling; I couldn’t even control my mind process, when I came to I had no idea what happened.”
It’s stories similar to “Breezy’s” that have lawmakers examining salvia a bit more closely. Already it has been banned in at least 11 states, however the number is almost certain to rise as proposed legislative bills in many other states are currently awaiting a decision.
These bills are fueled by the fears of salvia being used by those who drive as well as those who may cause harm to themselves or others while experiencing the effects of the drug.
“Officers can cite you with a DUI for impairment to the slightest degree. Using an herb that causes hallucinations is another form of impairment,” says MADD State Executive Ericka Espino. “I would imagine it would be something Arizona would want to make illegal as well because of the fact that it causes hallucinations.”
One aspect of salvia few people may realize are the medicinal purposes it is believed to have. Consequently, if it becomes illegal, serious research on the benefits of the drug may come to a screeching halt.
MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, in Ben Lomond, California, is one of the nation’s leading research firms.
MAPS representative Randolph Hencken says, “It is a natural plant that has been used by shamans and other explorers in centuries beyond any record of it and in the past 10 years or so people have become aware of it and now it’s getting all the press.”
Hencken also explains that the effects of salvia use do not fall into the category for what the Drug Enforcement Administration uses to outlaw drugs, which is defined as something that could be potentially dangerous and addicting.
In fact, researchers at MAPS have not found any short or long term adverse affects on the body, and while Hencken encourages people who chose to try the drug to use care, he believes that adults should have the right to decide what they do with their own bodies.
“Our concern about people outlawing this drug is that it is a knee jerk reaction to something they don’t understand. It would take this potentially useful substance that naturally occurs on our planet out of the hands of researchers who could possibly find that salvia is the tool we need to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia.”
So far there have been no reported overdoses from salvia, nor have there been any approved bills to make a law prohibiting its distribution in Arizona, but its legal status in the US is becoming more uncertain every day and may soon fade as quickly as the plant’s intense high.
Staff writer Emily Murray wrote a well-balanced article on Salvia Divinorum. She interviewed MAPS Communications Director Randolph Hencken who told her, “our concern about people outlawing this drug is that it is a knee jerk reaction to something they don’t understand. It would take this potentially useful substance that naturally occurs on our planet out of the hands of researchers who could possibly find that salvia is the tool we need to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia.”