Although I would appreciate any feedback, I would be particularly
grateful if the following communication could be brought to the attention
of Alistair Ramsay, who was quoted in the article to which I refer.
Dear Alistair Ramsay (et al. @ Scotland Against Drugs),
I’m writing to you as I have been the subject of some scandalous reporting
in the Sunday Mail. An article, headlined ‘the wasted civil servant’
(published 6/2/2005), has sensationalised my relationship with the
visionary herb Salvia divinorum and included quotes from you as
representative of Scotland Against Drugs.
The past few weeks have been traumatic for me. There have been job
concerns, with my employers reviewing the situation, and just general
stress in association with such a defamatory article.
I have posted a copy of the Sunday Mail’s story on my website at
I have broken this down (almost line-by-line) with detail rebuttal at
In the context of ‘Scotland Against Drugs’ comments in particular I would
like to give you the chance to comment further.
The Sunday Mail article quotes Alistair Ramsay’s concern about their being
no quality control with Salvia divinorum. In my rebuttal I point out that
I only sell live plants and give away dry Salvia leaf. There is no
artificial ‘processing’ involved. I also mention the fact that my plants
have been officially inspected in the context of export to non EU
countries, where official papers are required. For reference this part of
my overall rebuttal is copied below.
The [newspaper] report fails to mention that I do not deal in
pre-processed Salvia. Apart from giving away some dry leaf samples, I
specialise in the cultivation and propagation of live plants. I sell these
with the recommendation that growing your own plant is the best way to get
to know Salvia.
For Alistair Ramsay to be consistent he would also have to warn you
against growing and eating your own vegetables, on the grounds of their
being no quality control.
In any case, you may like to know that my plants have been occasionally
inspected in the context of exporting to some non-European countries,
where a Phytosanitary Certificate is needed. On these occasions the
plant's leaves and roots have been officially checked for bugs and
disease, with plant material samples being taken for laboratory analysis.
Apart from an initial investigation pointing out a few greenfly (which
were quickly dealt with), all inspections have certified the plants as
being free from infestation and disease.
So you can quite literally stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
Even though I close this section with a remark suggestive of letting off a
little steam (that you can stick it in your pipe and smoke it), I should
stress that I am making a serious point here.
In addition, I would say that I agree with the general point about not
assuming Salvia is safe just because it is legal. My website contains
warnings and disclaimers about this and is quite concerned about
minimising the risks. For example, I encourage people to read up as much
as they can about Salvia, and, especially for initiates, to have a
‘sitter’ (someone to watch over them).
However, I must add that any assumption about relationship between safety
and legality should transfer equally onto other substances, such as
alcohol. Unfortunately (though I’m not encouraging anyone to break their
national laws), in the case of badly drafted legislation, the reverse must
also be said to be true. For example, we should not assume just because
Salvia divinorum was made illegal in Australia that there were reasonable
or sufficient ground for doing this.
In any case, I would like to offer you the opportunity to further outline
your concerns and have them recorded on my website for the sake of
Any comment would be welcomed, but in particular you may like to consider
I invite you join me in condemning the Sunday Mail’s reporting and agree
that such pathetic standards of journalism, in sensationalising the
issues, peddling misinformation, and perpetuating fear and ignorance,
actually does more harm than good.
Also, would you care to consider and comment on the possibility that
visionary experience engendered by plants such as Salvia divinorum may
actually prove to be individually beneficial?
In support of this I would point to centuries of traditional use in
societies such as Mazatec cultures in Mexico.
I would also encourage you to read the article from recent edition of the
New Scientist (
which includes detail from research on Native American use of peyote,
suggesting that prolonged and relatively frequent psychedelic experience
is not deleterious to mental health. And consider the fact that the
sacramental use of peyote by the Native American Church is legitimate and
legally sanctioned by the US government. In addition, several churches in
Brazil, the largest of which is União Do Vegetal, have their sacramental
use of Ayahuasca similarly sanctioned by the Brazilian government. And the
Bwiti faith, which uses Iboga, is one of the major established religions
of West Africa.
In fact Ibogaine, the active constituent from the Tabernanthe iboga plant,
is currently being investigated for its potential particularly in the
treatment of heroin addiction.
Generally, as pointed out by the New Scientist article, and evidenced by
much diverse research, for many addicts the psychological effects of
psychedelic experience encourages a profound examination of the underlying
causes of their habituation, and many emerge determined to change. This
all goes to suggest that visionary experience could have positive
benefits, such as in the treatment of addiction to drugs of dependency
like heroin and alcohol.
The irony is, if ‘Scotland Against Drugs’ was a little more specific and
clear about its agenda, say if the organisation was called ‘Scotland
Against Drug Dependency’ or ‘Scotland Against Drug Abuse’, and maybe if it
weren’t financially sponsored by no less than four separate distillery
companies, not to mention off licences, tobacconists, and the newspaper
group that publishes the Sunday Mail, then I‘d quite happily be standing
shoulder to shoulder with you.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
~ Robert M.
Salvia Divinorum Scotland
PS. If you are interested in some of the video material that I have
available, I would be happy to send you (free of charge) DVD video and
DVD-ROM versions of Channel Four’s Sacred Weeds series, including a
full-length documentary feature on Salvia divinorum. I also have some
other programs, including documentaries focusing on Ayahuasca and Iboga,
which may add to your understanding of this fascinating and complex issue.
Alistair Ramsay / Scotland Against Drugs have not replied to above...