'How Can a Plant Be Illegal?'


The Drug War Chronicle reports that a clamor is building for state bans on salvia divinorum, a Mexican variety of mint that when smoked delivers a brief, LSD-like trip. The plant, which is available online as one of the last remaining legal highs, is already verboten in four states (Delaware, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee), and several others are considering bans. The drug is not very popular, and it's not likely that it ever will be. "The experience is too weird and occasionally downright unpleasant to have much mass appeal," notes the Chronicle, which quotes one authority who warns that a salvia trip "can be unsettling and unpleasant" and another who says, "salvia is not 'fun' in the way that alcohol or cannabis can be. If you try to party with salvia, you will probably not have a good experience."

Yet the fact that some people seem to like it, or at least to find it useful, was enough to prompt legislation, which gained further support after a Delaware teenager who used salvia committed suicide. "We found a note that he wrote on the computer that said salvia divinorum made him realize there was no point to being on Earth," his mother said while pushing for a ban in New Jersey.

"The fact is, legal means safe," a staffer who convinced an Alaska legislator to back a salvia ban (even though it's not clear that a single Alaskan has ever used the drug) told the Fairbanks Daily News Miner. Right, because everyone knows that alcohol and tobacco are completely safe, and surely no teenager has ever killed himself after drinking. The proprietor of "the Urban Shaman entheogen shop in Vancouver" also seems a little disconnected from the reality of U.S. (and Canadian) drug policy, asking, "How can a plant be illegal?" Still, it's a good question.