Is Salvia the Next Marijuana?

Lawmakers say Salvia poses health risks to the teens who abuse it.

ByABC News
March 11, 2008, 12:47 PM

March 11, 2008— -- TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - On Web sites touting the mind-blowingpowers of salvia divinorum, come-ons to buy the hallucinogenic herbare accompanied by warnings: "Time is running out! ... stock upwhile you still can."

That's because salvia is being targeted by lawmakers concernedthat the inexpensive and easy-to-obtain plant could become the nextmarijuana. Eight states including North Dakota have already placedrestrictions on salvia, and 16 others, including Florida, areconsidering a ban or have previously.

"As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking aroundfor other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one,"said Florida state Rep. Mary Brandenburg, who has introduced a billto make possession of salvia a felony punishable by up to fiveyears in prison.

North Dakota lawmakers last year passed a bill that makes salviadivinorum a schedule I controlled substance, a category thatincludes such drugs as heroin and marijuana. A person who makes,delivers or possesses a schedule 1 controlled substance is subjectto a felony charge.

Some say legislators are overreacting to a minor problem, but noone disputes that the plant impairs judgment and the ability todrive.

Native to Mexico and still grown there, salvia divinorum isgenerally smoked but can also be chewed or made into a tea anddrunk.

Called nicknames like Sally-D, Magic Mint and Diviner's Sage,salvia is a hallucinogen that gives users an out-of-body sense oftraveling through time and space or merging with inanimate objects.Unlike hallucinogens like LSD or PCP, however, salvia's effectslast for a shorter time, generally up to an hour.

No known deaths have been attributed to salvia's use, but it waslisted as a factor in one Delaware teen's suicide two years ago.

"Parents, I would say, are pretty clueless," said JonathanAppel, an assistant professor of psychology and criminal justice atTiffin University in Ohio who has studied the emergence of thesubstance. "It's much more powerful than marijuana."