Is Salvia the Next Marijuana?

Web sites such as tout the product with images like a waterfall and rainbow and include testimonials like "It might sound far fetched, but I experience immortality."

Among those who believe the commotion over the drug is overblown is Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that does research on psychedelic drugs and whose goal is to develop psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medication.

"I think the move to criminalize is a misguided response to a very minimal problem," Doblin said.

Doblin said salvia isn't "a party drug," "tastes terrible" and is "not going to be extremely popular." He disputes the fact teens are its main users and says older users are more likely.

"It's a minor drug in the world of psychedelics," he said.

Moreover, it's hard to say how widespread the use of salvia is. National and state surveys on drug use don't include salvia, and because it is legal in most states, law enforcement officials don't compile statistics, either.

San Diego State University last year surveyed more than 1,500 students and found that 4 percent of participants reported using salvia in the past year.

Brandenburg's bill would make salvia and its extract controlled substances in the same class as marijuana and LSD.

Florida state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, whose committee plans to study the salvia bill Tuesday, said the drug should be criminalized.

"I'd rather be at the front edge of preventing the dangers of the drug than waiting until we are the 40th or more," she said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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