The potent shamanic herb Salvia divinorum is getting attention of all the wrong kind, with the publication of an article in The New York Times concerning it’s effects, ‘abuse’, and attention from lawmakers. Perhaps responsible for the mainstream attention are the many YouTube videos showing people imbibing ‘Sally D’:
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.
“When you see it, well, it sure makes a believer out of you,” said Representative Charles Anderson of Waco, a Republican state lawmaker who is sponsoring one of several bills to ban salvia in Texas.
Now, I’m not sure why people acting stupid on YouTube would make anyone “a believer” in banning a natural plant…if you’re going to do that, start with Mentos and Diet Coke. Having said that, I also find it pretty damn annoying that people put stuff like this on YouTube, when the likely consequences are obvious. Not to mention my disdain for people not treating shamanic medicines with caution, and respect for the effects (which can be both positive and negative).
Salvia divinorum has actually been illegal here in Australia for a number of years already (it seems rather surreal that the more hardline United States authorities are a step behind on this one). And I’m all for regulation of some sort – this is powerful medicine, if you’re not ready for it you could get broken on the wheel. But illegality is a step too far, once again depriving serious, well-equipped psychic explorers from journeying into the ‘antipodes of the mind’, to paraphrase ayahuasca expert Benny Shanon.
You know, if lawmakers really wanted to stop people smoking Salvia, the best way would be to decriminalise marijuana. I don’t know too many people that would take on the challenge of a Salvia trip given the choice. Perhaps another interesting experiment might be to ban sales, but allow for home growing and preparation of personal material?
For a more scientific look at this New World entheogen, skip the YouTube videos and watch the Sacred Weeds episode covering it right here on TDG.
Also, if anyone is thinking of trying it (in a country where it’s legal…), please take the necessary precautions (sitter, safe place etc) – check out Daniel Siebert’s Sage Wisdom site for a comprehensive and knowledgable introduction.
Previously on TDG: Salvia divinorum crackdown imminent?