Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Case Study in Prohibition

So there's a super hallucinogenic herb from Mexico called Salvia divinorum. Originally used mostly by shaman in Oaxaca "seeking revelation," its popularity has grown as a recreational drug. In fact, pump "Salvia divinorum" into YouTube and you can find bunches of videos of people tripping on the mint relative, with cameras rolling.

Apparently, it's mostly harmless:

Though research is young and little is known about long-term effects, there are no studies suggesting that salvia is addictive or its users prone to overdose or abuse. Indeed, a salvia experience can be so intense, and at times so unsettling, that many try it just once, and even devotees use it sparingly.

Reports of salvia-related emergency room admissions are virtually nonexistent, likely because its effects typically vanish in just a few minutes.
Nonetheless, prohibitionists in this country have never needed actual harm before they outlawed some mind altering substance. But beyond legitimate concerns about restricting liberty, there are some other concerns if the herb gets the controlled substance treatment:
Pharmacologists who believe salvia could open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects. In state after state, however, including here in Texas, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. This year, Florida made possession or sale a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. California took a gentler approach by making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute to minors.
The researchers concerns seem legitimate, seeing as how the feds treated marijuana over the years as scientists tried to determine its medicinal benefits.

Sure, some folks tripping on salvia have apparently done bad things. Good thing that never happens with alcohol or prescription drugs! Let's at least weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of prohibition before we create another category of natural substance that turns harmless users into criminals.

1 comment:

crystal dawn said...

It's like the zealots who want to drug test teachers. They are sooo concerned with peyote being in their systems, but have no desire to test for drugs that they are legally on. Legal or not, I find drugs such as anti-depressants, blood thinners, anxiety drugs, and pain killers far worse in the long-term and at the very least, just as inebriating as some of the illegal ones.