In a recent story about state legislation banning the Mexican psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum, the Associated Press reports that lawmakers are "concerned that the inexpensive and easy-to-obtain plant could become the next marijuana." The lead to a different version of the story says "state lawmakers [in Florida] are considering a ban on what is being called the new marijuana."
By whom? Presumably not by the Hit & Run commenter who called salvia "THE WORST substance of this Earth," adding, "If you want kids to stay off of drugs, give them some Salvia and tell them this is what cannabis, hash, and LSD are all like—but worse." He is not alone in his low opinion of the plant. Erowid, which provides information on a wide variety of psychoactive substances for an audience that is more Leary than leery, notes that "its effects are considered unpleasant by many people."
A.P. cites a 2006 survey finding that "just under 2 percent of people age 18 to 25…reported using salvia in the past year." By comparison, about 28 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds admit smoking marijuana in the previous year, and I'd wager a lot more of them wanted to do it again than was the case for salvia smokers. Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies tells A.P. salvia use represents "a minimal problem," notes that "it's not a party drug," and suggests that it's "not going to be extremely popular."
No drug as powerful and unpredictable as salvia will ever be "the new marijuana," even though the government is giving it a boost by banning competing products. "As soon as we make one drug illegal," Florida state Rep. Mary Brandenburg tells A.P., "kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one." She worries that the government is pushing people toward less desirable, possibly more dangerous drugs by banning the ones they plainly prefer and suggests it should give up its vain quest to eliminate every possible intoxicant. Just kidding. Brandenburg "has introduced a bill to make possession of salvia a felony punishable by up to five years in prison."
I noted the beginnings of the anti-salvia crusade a couple years ago.
[Thanks to Ananda Gupta and BakedPenguin for the tip.]