Friday, December 5, 2008

Salivating over Salvia

From the 08 December 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

When drug users quibble over what hallucinogenic drugs create the strongest trips they generally rate LSD as number one, followed closely by Salvia divinorum.

Most everyone is familiar with LSD. It’s a storied substance that routinely makes the headlines, getting a fair amount of well-deserved bad press. On top of that, it’s a Schedule 1 drug that is illegal to manufacture, possess, buy, or distribute in the United States. Despite the image and the laws, in 2006 some 23 million Americans were estimated to have used the drug in their lifetimes.

Salvia, on the other hand, is a relatively unknown drug. It gets almost no major media attention and is legal to distribute and posses in all but a dozen states. You may not know about Salvia, but there’s a very good chance your children do, maybe even intimately.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Salvia is the latest craze in the youth drug culture, quickly becoming the drug of choice. Word about its dissociative abilities has spread like wildfire on the web and kids find themselves amused by – and therefore curious of – its effects after viewing any one of the thousands of Salvia trip videos that are available on YouTube, Google Video, and the like. They’re easily able to see their peers acting erratically, aggressively, and dangerously, even driving while under the influence of the herb. Go online and give it a look. If you have even a modicum of maturity you’ll find these videos disturbing.

The net not only promotes Salvia, but it sells it, too. This makes it ungodly easy for youth to get their mitts on a potent drug. No longer do they have to worry about breaking a law or dealing with questionable and dangerous drug pushers. It’s all just a mouse-click away.

A quick search will show hundreds of internet companies selling Salvia. A relatively cheap high, anyone can buy it for as little as $9 gram to as much as $64 per gram depending on the strength. And, unfortunately, it’s delivered incognito. In most cases it arrives via standard mail in an envelope or as a package from what appears to be a reputable supplement/health company along the lines of GNC. Few parents would question their children on either count.

Because of the congruence of all these factors, use of Salvia has exploded. In the past twelve months alone, over 750,000 have used it for the first time. One online vendor brags that his sales to New York State have increased by 1,000 percent in the past half-year.

Yes, you read that right. The Empire State, usually the state to have more laws than any other, has no restrictions on Salvia. So, there’s a very good chance that high school and college students you know have used the stuff.

This legal impasse is not for a lack of trying. For the past five legislative sessions the State Senate has passed a series of bills that make the sale and or possession of Salvia on offense in New York State. In each and every session the Assembly has put them out to die in committee. This year was no different. Bill S.695, sponsored by Senator Flanagan of Long Island, would make it illegal to peddle the plant in NY. It was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate back in February. Since then, the Assembly has let the bill (as A.610) sit idle in the economic development committee. Other bills, like Senator Maziarz’s attempt to identify Salvia as an LSD-type controlled substance (S.7736) have been met with disdain. That said, it’s imperative that you contact your assemblyperson and ask him or her to support such legislation when it returns to the floor in 2009.

If they fail to make headway yet again, which is likely and unconscionable, it might be up to our local elected officials to succeed where Albany has failed. The county legislators would need only to follow the lead of Suffolk County. There, back in April of this year, it was signed into local law that possession or sale of Salvia in the county is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

As long as the laws allow it, kids will continue to use this weed, putting them and their companions in peril. It’s up to you as a parent or friend to make yourself aware of this insidious, easily-acquired drug. With no laws on the books it will be up to you to make law in your home.

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