My turn: Truth about salvia

Medicinal herb acts as an antidepressant, isn't dangerous

Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I would like to draw attention to new legislation which has been introduced under Senate Bill 313 to make possession of salvia divinorum, a rare medicinal herb from Mexico, a criminal offense.

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The bill is in knee-jerk reaction to the suicide of a teen in Delaware who had been depressed over the divorce of his parents and their sending him to a private religious school. The parents of this teenage boy blamed the suicide on his having smoked salvia, calling it a strong depressant when in fact there are pages of documented studies showing that it is a strong antidepressant. The media has suggested that this plant looks like marijuana, when in fact salvia plants look nothing like it.

Other media hype is that salvia is either as strong or stronger than LSD, because when smoked in large quantities it can induce short-lived, closed-eye visuals lasting about five to seven minutes for people who are sensitive to this plant. Many aren't and it has no effect on them at all. It is very difficult to obtain any effect from salvia in its raw dried-leaf form, whether its chewed or smoked. It only gives much of an effect when it's in concentrations from five to 10 times the strength of regular raw dried leaf.

In its raw form, salvia has been very effective for me as a long-term antidepressant and more effective for me than other prescribed medications. For me, the state seeking to criminalize the sale of salvia is extremely offensive. I have never been involved in illicit drugs and do not drink alcohol, never have been arrested for anything and have never been in jail. Yet, if I refuse to yield to the criminalization of salvia divinorum - refuse to give up my freedom to have a heightened state of mind and increased general well being through use of this herb - I will be subject to laws which are designed to further take away my freedoms and destroy my family life.

Although salvia has potential for abuse when individuals who are thrill-seeking smoke too much due to strong inebriating effects (much like alcohol but lasting only 20 minutes for most people) I see no reason to criminalize this plant, which has been used as a medicine for several centuries by the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

Criminalizing this plant is very destructive and against my right to seek happiness, not to mention the wonderful meditative states of mind one can achieve when using small to moderate amounts of this plant - far below what can cause short-lived hallucinogenic effects.

This plant is not evil. This plant is only a perceived problem. There is no amount which is so toxic that it can kill anyone. It has antidepressant properties and is anti-addictive. Most individuals who use so much of this plant as to cause them to have closed-eye visuals, as they are called in the entheogen community, a group of individuals who study and use rare shamanic plants to achieve spiritual states of mind do not wish to use that much, if at all. Salvia in large amounts is just too strong for most people to want to endure, regardless of being so short acting, 20 minutes at the most if having ingested a large amount which is key. I do not use this plant in large amounts and many of the people I know do not do so either. Sure, large amounts are strongly inebriating and this is why I support a law which would restrict its sale to anyone under the age of 21. But a law that would stop those of us who can use it responsibly is completely unreasonable.

I see no reason to criminalize this wonderfully constructive plant which I use on a weekly basis as the most effective antidepressant I have been able to find and do not want this plant to be regulated to the point where I would require a doctor's prescription to use it.

There simply is no problem with salvia to cause it to become a criminalized substance with the same penalties of addictive and destructive drugs such as meth and heroin as the Senate bill seeks to make it.

For more information on salvia divinorum, please research the topic online.

• Christopher C. Hazlitt is a resident of Palmer.

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