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WASHINGTON ? Federal drug agents are so concerned about the growing use of a little-known and accessible herb with hallucinogenic qualities that they are taking steps to treat it like cocaine, heroin and LSD, and make it illegal. The herb is salvia divinorum, a type of sage native to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in Mexico and used by natural healers there. It can alter perception and induce visions when smoked or chewed.
Salvia emerged in the USA about three years ago. Word spread on the Internet. And now, teenagers and young adults in search of mind-bending experiences are trying it.
Its price ranges from $8.95 to $120 an ounce depending on potency. It is sold in "head shops," on the Internet and, in one St. Louis suburb, a record shop at a mall.
In St. Peters, Mo., young teens were smoking salvia that they bought at the mall until January, when the Board of Aldermen banned its sale to those younger than 18.
"It's not like this substance is overtaking the streets of America, but I could see it becoming a problem as it becomes more available," said Sgt. Rick Gerger, a detective in St. Peters.
The Drug Enforcement Administration agrees and is collecting information about the herb's active ingredients as the first step toward seeking to have it declared an illegal controlled substance.
"My main concern is that young people are buying something and taking something that we know almost nothing about," said Frank Sapienza, chief of the DEA's drug evaluation section.
But the herb has its defenders, who say there is little information that points to addiction or side effects with its use.
"I find it really bizarre that you can outlaw a plant," said Kim Upton, who runs the Starlight Goddess metaphysical store in Louisville. The store sells salvia. "Even nutmeg taken in large quantities will give you a bigger buzz than LSD."
Daniel Siebert of Malibu, Calif., sells salvia on the Internet for as much as $120 an ounce. His buyers are "spiritual seekers," he said. They must acknowledge that they have read information on salvia and that they are at least 18. He encourages people who take it to have sober "sitters" who watch so users don't hurt themselves while hallucinating.
Even so, he says the DEA is overreacting to salvia.
"It could never become popular like marijuana or Ecstasy," Siebert said. "The effects are not desirable for recreational drug users. It's not something that is fun. It's more of an existential ordeal."
Sooo, basically we make it illegal now while we "don't know anything about it," and then when we do know more... It's still gonna be illegal forever because drugs dont get relegalized.
Thanks for being so smart guys. If only the government cared about things like the food every one of us eats every day like they obsess over trivial hyperbolic fears of the actions of a small minority, we wouldn't have to worry about our food containing pesticides genetically engineered to grow inside the plants, etc. and would be able to at least be aware of whether our particular foods have been played around with or not.