Media Stories

The Wasted Civil Servant

Communication with 'Scotland Against Drugs'.

sent to [email protected]

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 www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/mediastories/20050206_sundaymail.htm

I have broken this down (almost line-by-line) with detail rebuttal at www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/mediastories/20050206_sundaymail2.htm

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 balance.

Any comment would be welcomed, but in particular you may like to consider the following…

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 ( www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/mediastories/20050226_newscientist.htm ), 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.

Best regards,

~ 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...

I’d be the last person to suggest believing every newspaper story, but note this report from the Edinburgh Evening News / Scotsman website

‘Scotland Against Drugs’ haven’t even acknowledged my correspondence.   While this remains the case, I can only conclude SAD reluctance to enter into any debate beyond simple ‘just say no’ rhetoric. – Perhaps they don’t have any real confidence in the depth or quality of their argument, and on that basis don’t want to risk losing face.