An Open Letter to Brett's Parents Kathy and Dennis Chidester

As a participant in what we might call the 'Salvia Community' I would like to extend my sympathies over the loss of your son. I would like to assure you that most of us are deeply saddened by it.

I am interested in doing what I can, and this includes finding out as much as possible about the facts of the case. You'll appreciate that this is not easy from reading one-sided and sensationalist reports in the media.

One of the starting points for me has been to find out more about the general phenomena of suicide, particularly amongst the young. I was surprised to learn for example that suicide is now the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. And that the suicide rate for white males in that age group has tripled since 1950 (source: the National Center for Health Statistics).

Each one of these cases will have its own story I know, but it does suggest a much wider issue for society than can be simply related to Salvia divinorum.

Speaking as someone who has been working with Salvia for over seven years it is concerning for me to see many now pressing for the strictest possible 'Schedule I' classification, particularly when such proponents also display such limited knowledge of the herb and its effects.

In your home state of Delaware as I understand it Salvia divinorum has been made illegal without any distinction being made between the plant in its natural form and the much stronger manufactured extracts.

It is not that the majority of us wouldn't agree with some form of regulation; in particular with regard to the sale and supply of Salvia divinorum to minors (even though most vendors already voluntarily restrain themselves this way). We do not think Salvia's realms necessarily appropriate for all.

It is just that many of us feel that our relationship with Salvia has been of great creative and positive benefit in our lives, especially illuminating with regard to our spiritual development.

Speaking as someone who only deals with the live plants I'm very concerned about laws being enacted that would suggest the best place for us mature, responsible, happy and otherwise productive adults would be in jail for periods up to and even exceeding 20 years.

Remember that there is another side to the story. And that other side will be well documented if not in the traditional press then with the more democratic Internet - where a lot of people prefer to get their information. Enquiring minds will always come to their own conclusions.

I completely understand should you wish to continue campaigning for greater awareness and better education on these issues.

All I would ask is that you consider all the factors and that you don't let the media and politicians use your son's death simply to further their own narrow agendas.

Yours respectfully...