On Second Thought, Ignorance of the Law Is a Pretty Good Excuse


Kenneth Rau, the North Dakota man who appears to be the first American busted for possession of the psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum, received a three-year "deferred imposition of sentence" this week, meaning his record will be wiped clean if he successfully completes three years of probation. Rau, who bought eight ounces of salvia leaf online not long after North Dakota banned the plant in 2007, says he did not realize he was committing a crime, a plausible claim that is reinforced by the fact that the leaves police discovered in his home were clearly labeled "salvia." He originally was accused of possession with intent to distribute, a charge that could have resulted in a prison sentence of up to 10 years. But the charge was reduced after police looked into the typical dosage for unfortified leaf, as opposed to salvia extract or leaves treated with the extract. Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia Feland recommended the deferred sentence, noting Rau's clean criminal record and the recency of the ban. If Rau had been arrested before the ban took effect, of course, his punishment would have been even lighter.

[via the Drug War Chronicle]