Generally Salvia divinorum is legal in most countries in the world
and, within the United States, legal in the majority of States. However, a few
politicians have called for its prohibition. At the time of writing, most of
these proposals have not made it into law, with motions having failed,
stalled or otherwise died, for example in the United Kingdom, at national level
in the United States, and at more local level within States such as Alaska,
Illinois, Oregon and Wyoming.
This section summarises some of the arguments and contentions made with
regard to the legal status of Salvia divinorum.
A reason for Salvia's favourable legal status so far is that there's been
little real evidence to suggest that its use is problematic. Salvia divinorum
is not a newly discovered or synthesised drug. It has been revered for perhaps
centuries by the Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico as a sacred plant, capable of
facilitating spiritual experiences. It is a plant that has been available in the
States and other countries since the 1990's, following the experiment and report
of Daniel Siebert and others. The rise of the Internet since the mid-1990s saw
the growth of many businesses selling dried Salvia leaves, extracts and other
preparations. During the 10-15 years in which it has become more available in
modern Western culture police have not been reporting it as a significant issue
with regard to public order offences. Medical experts, accident and emergency
rooms have not been reporting cases that suggest particular health concerns.
Salvia divinorum is not generally understood to be toxic or addictive.
Salvia has some effects
Despite this, some have succeeded in pushing though their anti-Salvia laws,
such as in Australia (the first country to ban it), and in a few American
States. To justify prohibition some politicians have argued that Salvia effects
are "LSD-Like" and that this alone is sufficient to raise alarms about its
safety. Many Salvia media stories also headline with comparisons to LSD.
However, while LSD and Salvia's active constituent salvinorin A may have
comparative potencies, in the sense that both can produce their effects
with low dosage amounts, they are otherwise quite different. LSD is a wholly
synthetic drug, salvinorin A occurs in only nature and has yet to be
synthesised. The two substances are not chemically similar or related. They are
ingested in different ways. They produce different effects, which manifest
themselves over different timescales. The effects of Salvia when smoked
typically last for only a few minutes as compared to LSD, whose effects can
persist for 8-10 hours.
Another argument made against Salvia, while conceding that not much is known
about it and that it may not be a particular problem at the moment, is that
legislation is needed to stop it becoming a problem in the future. For example,
Senator Randy Christmann (R) stated - "we need to stop this before it gets to
be a huge problem not after it gets to be a huge problem" and Assemblyman Jack Conners argued -"Salvia divinorum use may not be
a runway epidemic, but it certainly is a phenomenon that warrants attention. We
should take preventive steps now to prevent wholesale problems later on...".
Some others have banned it
There also seems to be the implication that because a few other States or
countries have banned Salvia divinorum then it follows that there must
obviously be a problem with it. For example, in October 2005 MP John Mann
raised an ultimately unsuccessful
Early Day Motion calling for Salvia to be banned in the UK, saying - "The
Australians have clearly found a problem with it. There's obviously a risk in
people taking it."
What about the children?
While not objecting to some form of legal control, in particular with regard
to the sale to minors or sale of enhanced high-strength extracts, most Salvia
proponents otherwise argue against more prohibitive measures.
Some countries and States such as Missouri have imposed the strictest Schedule I
or equivalent classification against Salvia divinorum even in its natural
and untreated form.
Salvia's supporters argue that such extreme measures as total prohibition are mainly due to a
particular cultural taboo about certain altered states of consciousness - an
inherent prejudice rather than the actual balance of evidence. They point to
inconsistencies in attitudes toward other more toxic and/or addictive drugs such
Those advocating consideration of Salvia divinorumís potential for
beneficial use in a modern context argue that more could be learned from Mazatec
culture, where Salvia is not really associated with notions of drug taking at
all and it is rather considered as a spiritual sacrament. In light of this it is
argued that Salvia divinorum could be better understood more positively
entheogen rather than pejoratively as a
entheogenic plants with traditions of spiritual use include peyote (and
other psychoactive cacti), iboga, virola, ayahuasca
(an admixture of plants containing
DMT + MAOI),
and various types of psychoactive fungi.
In fact, US legislation specifically allows two of these to be used in a
spiritual context. The
Native American Church is allowed to use peyote and
Uniao do Vegetal (or UDV) is permitted ayahuasca. Although not consistently
granted (again varying from State to State), the principal grounds for such
with further grounds following from the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
There haven't been any publicised prosecutions recorded under any Salvia
laws. Legislation may prove difficult to police. The plant has a nondescript
appearance; the leaves are not distinctive and it does not have a distinctive
odour like cannabis. Salvia divinorum looks like and can be grown as an
ordinary houseplant without the need of special equipment such as hydroponics or