Bassetlaw MP John Mann's 'Early Day' Motion on Salvia Divinorum (EDM 792)

The original wording of the motion was as follows...

That this House notes that salvia divinorum is a drug with hallucinogetic effects; is concerned that this drug is entirely legal and sold freely in the UK and is cited on websites selling it as the `drug the Government forgot to ban'; and urges the Government to take urgent steps to rectify this oversight and ban salvia divinorum under the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.


  Salvia Divinorum Scotland Comments on the Motion

The motion is badly written. Apart from grammatical clumsiness, which could be overlooked (the motion “urges the Government to take urgent action”?), there were spelling mistakes. Unless ‘hallucinogetic’ was some esoteric syntax, they must've meant to say ‘hallucinogenic’.  Note that I have left the curious spelling as originally found on the Parliamentary Information Management Services website page even though they subsequently corrected it.

I don't know if their correction suggests avid parliamentary readership of my website, but PIMS / John Mann may also wish to note that the genus is normally capitalised in Latin taxonomy (i.e. the first part of the name, preceding the species part). - So the usual spelling (when not fully capitalised e.g. as in a title heading), when written ordinarily in a sentence, is Salvia divinorum.

The motion is factually incorrect in its statement that Salvia divinorum is a drug. Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb in the Labiatae (mint) family, native to certain areas in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico.

I appreciate that maybe the wording of an Early Day Motion is intended to be concise, but this doesn’t excuse it from being misleading.  Salvia divinorum is a plant.

Salvia divinorum contains the active constituent salvinorin A. Salvinorin A is an entheogen. - Another way of putting it is having the power to facilitate visions. There are other ways of describing it, however the term ‘drug’ is broadly meaningless and pejorative, as is the term hallucinogenic (or hallucinogetic for that matter).

Regardless of what one thinks of a single instance of a website using the marketing tagline ‘the drug the Government forgot to ban’ (and I personally think it’s ill advised), it is misleading to state websites in plural, i.e. to suggest that there’s more than one using the ‘forgot to ban’ line. And, regardless of the number of websites using it, it’s nonsense, it simply does not follow, to take it literally and to suggest it’s a case of legislative oversight which the government must take urgent steps to rectify.

To summarise: EDM 792 is shoddily written, badly thought out, misleading and inaccurate. It’s in the same class as this year’s Clause 21 ‘War on Drugs’ legislation, which (on the bill's return to the Commons on April 7 2005) Newport West MP Paul Flynn condemned as having been "conceived in prejudice, written in ignorance and ... enacted with incompetence."

John Mann has demonstrated such a lack of knowledge about Salvia divinorum that I’m also reminded of Tory MP David Amess (1996) Common’s question about the Czechoslovakian drug 'Cake'. Cake famously turned out to be a complete figment, – a set up by Chris Morris’s spoof news documentary TV program ‘Brass Eye’. It made Mr Amess look very silly of course, but more than simply comedy, this controversial and uncompromising satire highlighted some serious issues about media hysteria, of particular concern being how fawningly some elected representatives can pander to it.



  John Mann and Alcohol

The (unanswered) email sent to John Mann (16-Oct-2005 - on the menu back from here) closes with the suggestion that "it would be a far better use of minister's time [...] tackling the endemic problem of binge drinking, rather than trying to spook ordinary people about something [i.e. Salvia divinorum] of which they've never heard."

I subsequently noticed that, on 18th October 2005, the day before John Mann's Salvia motion, MP Howard Stoate had raised a motion on Alcohol Treatment (EDM 783) - the wording of which is as follows...

That this House welcomes the campaign by Alcohol Concern to increase investment in alcohol treatment; notes that eight million people in the United Kingdom drink at harmful or hazardous levels; is concerned that alcohol misuse causes around 22,000 deaths each year and costs the UK £18 billion a year; recognises the excellent work of alcohol treatment services for individuals and for society; further notes the recent study showing a saving of £5 for every £1 spent on treating people with alcohol problems; and calls upon the Government to make alcohol treatment the priority it should be.

At the time of writing John Mann had not signed this particular motion. He could reconsider this I suppose, and, rather like the 'hallucinogetic' spelling at the top of the page, it could be amended since my pointing it out.  In any case, I thought it interesting to look through other EDMs that he'd signed.  I was interested to find out what particular concerns he did have about alcohol.

There's another one (EDM 6) about Health Label Warnings for Alcoholic Drinks...

That this House welcomes the call by the Salvation Army and the Methodist Church that health warning labels should be attached to all alcoholic drinks; requests that the Government introduces legislation requiring the drinks industry to print cigarette-style health warnings on all products and advertisements, together with advice relating to weekly alcohol intake for men and women; notes that alcohol abuse remains a bigger killer than deaths caused through illegal drugs; believes that the drinks industry should take more responsibility for the harm alcohol causes, by contributing to the costs of prevention and treatment of problem drinking, including paying for the running of detoxification centres and community-based projects to support families affected by drink-related problems; and wishes the Government success with its National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy.

Again, no signature from John Mann.

However, along with 210 other MPs, John Mann did think it worth signing EDM 404 - concerning Measures of Pints of Beer...

That this House expresses concern at current proposals to define a pint of beer as not less than 95 per cent. liquid; notes that the Campaign for Real Ale, the Trading Standards Institute and Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services believes that the proposal will result in the proposed five per cent. tolerance being added to the existing deficiency threshold normally applied by enforcement agencies before considering prosecution action which will result in licensees being able to serve pints of substantially less than 95 per cent. liquid; further notes that short measures cost consumers over £400 million annually, HM Treasury over £54 million annually in lost excise revenues and brewers £133 million in lost beer sales; and therefore calls on the Government to bring forward legislation to protect consumers from short beer measures by defining a pint of beer as 100 per cent. liquid.


So you may be forgiven in concluding that, in contrast to his unwarranted Salvia scaremongering, John Mann doesn't have any serious concerns about the real health impacts of alcohol.  His main worry about booze seems to be simply seeing that we all get enough.