Salvia banned in Ohio
Published: Thursday, April 2, 2009
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2009 04:04
Salvia divinorum, a psychedelic substance, became illegal in Ohio yesterday.
Gov. Ted Strickland signed the bill on Jan. 9 to ban the substance. The bill was sponsored by former state Rep. Thom Collier after 12-year-old Drew Bush from Loudonville, Ohio, was killed by a friend under the influence of Salvia, according to a publication of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The bill's passage treats Salvia as a Schedule I controlled substance with the same penalties associated with cocaine, heroin and psychedelic drugs.
"[Salvia] is a very intense psychoactive drug, psychedelic drug," said Edward "Wild Bill" Kleppinger, owner of the smoke shop 632 Main St. "It acts upon the mind, which the mind is a very delicately constructed bag of chemicals, and it's definitely a whole different classification [of drug]."
Some of the street names for the substance are "Maria Pastora," "Sage of the Seers," "Diviner's Sage," "Salvia," "Sally D" and "Magic Mint."
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the plant is a perennial herb in the mint family and is native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Salvia is not controlled under the Controlled Substances Act.
Kleppinger said whether the drug is legal has no bearing on its potency.
"Because it's something that if people are going to use, they should have knowledge of what they're using, similar to driving a car and without being properly educated about driving a car; it's a very dangerous thing," he said.
Nick Piazza, a professor in counselor education and school of psychology at UT, said the substance is not a popular one, but the ban on it was a necessary step to keep abuse of the substance under control before it became a popular.
"If a substance is not specifically illegal, then it is legal to use it, and so very often legislatures will act well in advance of a drug becoming real popular because they need to make it illegal so the drug enforcement laws apply to it before the drug becomes widely used," he said.
Some users said the ban came too early.
"The bad part about it is a lot of people don't know about it; a lot of people haven't experienced it yet, and it's already illegal," said Mark Banks, a student at Owens Community College who was at the head shop. "I enjoyed it, but, like other things, I just felt like it wasn't for me," he said.
According to the DEA Web site, psychedelic effects include perceptions of bright lights, vivid colors and shapes, as well as body movements and body or object distortions. Other effects include dysphoria, uncontrolled laughter, a sense of loss of body, overlapping realities and hallucinations. Adverse physical effects may include loss of coordination, dizziness and slurred speech.
Kleppinger said Salvia is much more intense than mushrooms and peyote and said both substances are legal in Amsterdam.
"Basically, Salvia, I believe, is a wormhole to the spirit world; there's a dicing sensation. ... You can't really fight it; you flow with it," he said.
Salvia can be purchased online and in smoke shops in states where it is still legal.
Kleppinger said although there will be a loss of income as a result from the ban, it does not account for a large percentage of his sales.
According to Dayton's WHIO-TV Channel 7 Web site, anyone caught buying, selling or using Salvia will be charged with a felony as of April 1.
"A lot of times people will do that because they think, ‘Oh gosh, it's legal, it's not illegal, I can do this and I won't get in trouble or arrested,' but they don't realize just how dangerous this substance is, and there's no way of knowing just exactly how much risk you're taking because the toxicity of the plant is variable from field to field," Piazza said.
Kleppinger stressed the importance of education when it comes to using this substance.
"For years, to every person I sold it to, I try to educate them with all the best of my abilities. I did that but wasn't able to do so as there are still, obviously, remain[ing] people out there using it without education, and so therefore I feel like it is something that the government does need to step into," Kleppinger said.
"I think marijuana is the most common drug we have to deal with [in the residence halls]," said Andrea Son, a resident adviser at the Quad and a fourth-year majoring in pharmacy. As far as she could recall, she reported fewer than 10 cases related to marijuana this academic year and said she had not heard of Salvia.
UT Police Chief Jeff Newton confirmed there were no reported cases on campus related to Salvia.
Although the ban came into effect yesterday, Newton said no training has been scheduled for UT Police Department officers to receive education on identifying the substance, but he expects some training is available.
Newton said there needs to be more efforts to inform police officers about the substance.
"I think we will share the information on our roll calls because it's not a substance that has traditionally been covered by our normal training," he said.
Even though police officers are not informed how to test for the substance, Newton said the ban can still be enforced if an individual is caught possessing the substance.
Kleppinger said he sees enforcement as a way for the government to control citizens.
"The government is really afraid of a spiritually enlightened populous, and a populous that's kept in the dark is a lot easier to control, and so keeping psychedelic drugs out of the hands of people is in the government's best interest," he said.