Dear Mr Mann,

It is with some trepidation that I read the report in 'WorksopToday' (14/10/2005 - www.worksoptoday.co.uk) about Salvia divinorum.

I'd like to confirm whether the quotes attributed to you are accurate, and in particular, to find out more about the 'Early Day Motion' the article reported you as tabling.

My concern is that knee-jerk reactions to things apparently new and unknown tend to result in poor legislation, and generally that peddling fear and misinformation ends up doing more harm than good.

For example, the article quoted you as saying, "The Australians have clearly found a problem with it. There's obviously a risk in people taking it".

In fact, if one looks further into it, one may more reasonably conclude that Australian authorities simply banned Salvia without issue or knowledge of what they were legislating against.

During their 'research' their National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee dismissively stated "There was no evidence of traditional therapeutic use other than in shamanistic healing rituals." Which begs the question, does a shamanistic healing ritual not count as a traditional therapeutic use?

This unelected committee's technical 'experts' apparently made such a complete hash of its systematic naming of the active constituent Salvinorin A, it not only suggests that they had no idea what they were legislating against, it may even make the validity of the law itself questionable (see http://thomas.munro.com/name.htm for technical detail).

Australia was the first country to ban Salvia divinorum. How others could have so sheepishly followed suit becomes more apparent from your unquestioning tone.

Another quote we have is "These people who live in this airy fairy land [the websites] don't know what effect this is having on a town like Worksop" - again, before you start grandstanding and trying to look tough with your stance on the "war on drugs" - please try to substantiate your remarks. Tell us, if you know any better, exactly "what effect this is having on a town like Worksop", preferably without using unwarranted adjectives like 'clearly' and 'obviously'.

I've been working closely with Salvia for over six years. It's been available in the UK for over a decade. It's been used in Mazatec culture for centuries.

I'm not trying to claim that there aren't any risks whatsoever, but I believe it would be a far better use of minister's time, for example, tackling the endemic problem of binge drinking, rather than trying to spook ordinary people about something of which they've never heard.

Yours sincerely,

R.J MacNeil

Recommended further reading:
Ethnopharmacology of Ska Maria Pastora

Sage Wisdom - Salvia divinorum Branches Out