Waco legislator trying to outlaw salvia

March 12, 2007

Waco legistar trying to outlaw salvia

Though many parents and other adults may not know it, there is a substance on the market that can cause hallucinations or loss of consciousness — and it’s legal in Texas. Salvia divinorum, used for hundreds of years by the Mazatec Indians in spiritual ceremonies, has gained popularity since the 1990s in the United States among those seeking psychedelic experiences. Currently salvinorin A, the psychoactive chemical derived from the plant, is available for purchase over the counter in shops in Waco and around Texas.

Known also as “Diviner’s Sage” and “Magic Mint,” the drug is called salvia by most. But if state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, gets his way, the plant and its mind-bending extract might soon be added to the state’s controlled-substances list. Under House Bill 2347, those who manufacture, deliver or possess the plant or its extract would be subject to criminal penalties, possibly leading to life sentences and fines up to $100,000 in cases involving large amounts.

“When it is readily available and there are sites on the Internet that promote its use, youngsters could make some poor decisions about what they are doing,” Anderson said. “If somebody is getting behind the wheel of a car or other situations where they could injure other people, we need to make folks aware of it and start to control the access.” Although many salvia varieties commonly are grown as houseplants, Salvia divinorum is the only one known for its psychedelic effects.Salvia divinorum is difficult to seed outside of its native habitat in Southern Mexico. Users typically purchase salvia leaves to smoke or chew. Because salvia is not included on the federal controlled-substances list, a variety of Web sites have appeared, promoting it as an alternative to illegal hallucinogens. Seeds, fresh and dried leaves, plant cuttings, whole plants and various extracts are sold over the Internet.

Strictly speaking

As of last week, small bags of dried leaves, labeled Salvia divinorum, were for sale at Wizard of Odd’z on Franklin Avenue in Waco. Store clerks declined to comment about salvia, besides saying they do not sell the product to those under 18. Packaging that comes with the product says it is “not intended for consumption and is offered strictly for incense use only.” It also recommends some “common-sense guidelines” for using salvia, including: “Always have someone there with you when burning,” “Never burn on a balcony,” and “Never burn near dangerous objects such as glass, knives, guns, etc.”

Representatives from the Waco Police Department and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office knowledgeable about salvia and its use locally were not available for comment on Friday. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control, teenagers and young adults are salvia’s most common users. Amy Smith, who oversees psychiatric and substance abuse disorders at Waco’s Freeman Center, said she is aware of only a few cases in which clients were known to use salvia. In those cases, it was mainly used to satisfy a craving for other drugs, she said.“It seems significant,” Smith said. “I don’t know why we haven’t seen it more.”

Young people abuse plenty of other legal substances, including cold medicine, she said. Those that get into experimenting with drugs like salvia could be at greater risk of trying other drugs or getting involved in criminal activities, she said. “That is why we have the push for prevention and trying to do things when people are young or are just getting started into the substances,” Smith said. Five states have outlawed salvia, and lawmakers in 10 other states are pushing for similar bans.

While the extent of salvia’s usage is unclear, Anderson said he believes his legislation will bring awareness about potentially harmful effects. “When you start the debate, that is educational in itself,” he said. “Hopefully, we can protect some of these youngsters.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *