Salvia ban a burn to science

Salvia ban a burn to science

A baseless drug prohibition would stifle a unique strain of medical research.

PUBLISHED: 03/25/2010

If H.F. 2975 (companion S.F. 2773) authored by Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, becomes law, Minnesota will ban the sale of the psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum and criminalize its possession as a misdemeanor offense. Lanning has authored a separate House bill which would make salvia a Schedule I controlled substance.

Research on salvia has been increasingly popular. According to Dr. Bryan Roth at Case Western Reserve University, salvia is the most potent naturally-occurring hallucinogenic drug. By 2006, studies had suggested that its primary active ingredient, salvinorin A, could lead to treatments for Alzheimers disease and schizophrenia.

As far as drugs go, salvia does not appear to be particularly dangerous. No long-term negative outcomes have been reported from its use. There have been no reported cases of addiction in the scientific literature as the drug can be unpleasant. In one case, salvia brought on persistent psychosis, but no one is recorded as dying because of salvia in either the U.K. or the United States. These realities don’t trip up Rep. Lanning: a drug war is good politics.

In 1986, then President Ronald Reagan declared that drug users are as dangerous to our national security as any terrorist. Unfortunately for the humanity’s more rational endeavors, such dogma is alive and well. Clearly, certain lawmakers are willing to criminalize a substance in order to score political points among unduly terrorized parents. But bans like this serve another purpose: the maintenance of law and order, or more accurately, the maintenance of the politically-valuable misbelief that drug criminalization aids in our national security.

If this strategy is a reality, one would expect drug policy to reflect a less-than-accurate level of danger. A growing body of research suggests some Schedule I drugs like marijuana, ecstasy or the well-studied lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are actually less risky than Schedule II counterparts like methamphetamine or morphine. With respect to mortality, these drugs are safer than alcohol and tobacco. Our drug schedule is nonsense, and it impedes scientific research.

MDMA, or ecstasy as it is known on the street, was finding increasing currency among couples therapists when it was made a Schedule I substance by congress in 1985, against the request of researchers and psychologists. Washington proved unable to take expert opinion any more seriously than a junkie’s. Today, it’s Lanning turn to get a drug war fix.

Representative Lanning, on unsolicited behalf of Minnesotas largest public research university, these bills exemplify the incurious. Thank you for reminding us how useful the opportunists find a fear-driven politics., a student-produced newspaper of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, published this editorial which criticizes Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, for introducing a bill to ban the sale of the psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum in the state of Minnesota. The editorial lambastes the lawmaker for using fear-driven politics to introduce a law which could stifle legitimate research into finding treatments for illnesses such as Alzheimers disease and schizophrenia.