Students see logic in lawmakers’ attempts to ban ‘next marijuana’

By Daniel Ucko

“It hit me. My body started tingling really bad. The next thing
you know, I was stuck to the back of this chair. Gravity was
pulling everything down, and I was going into a grave, and
everything was being pulled down with me.”

This is the experience sixth-year plant sciences student Paul
Broding had the first time he tried legal hallucinogenic herb
salvia divinorum.

While medical marijuana’s status in the U.S. remains hazy, a
number of states are making an attempt to end the use of this
controversial but legal drug.

Often known as Magic Mint, Diviner’s Sage or Sally-D, salvia is
an inexpensive and easily obtained herb that is becoming more
prevalent among college students who are smoking it to get
high.

Found online or in most smoke shops, the drug’s popularity has
been propelled lately in part by YouTube videos of bong-wielding
college kids experiencing comical “trips” while on the
psychedelic.

In California, salvia divinorum and its main component,
salvinorin A, are completely legal.

All parts of the plant, including its extracts, are legal to
“cultivate, buy, possess and distribute … without a license or
prescription,” according to erowid.org, an online library of
psychoactive plants and chemicals.

In February 2007, however, Assembly Bill 259 tried to add the
plant to the list of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule
I Controlled Substances, which restricts substances with high
potential for abuse or no accepted medical purpose.Brian Rigazzi, a
fifth-year anthropology and graphic design student, said he checks
Erowid before he tries anything new to make sure there is no
serious potential harm involved.

“Salvia has very little damage or effects unless you abuse it,”
said Rigazzi. “From what I’ve heard, as long as you’re not going
through some sort of depression, you’ll have a fun time.”

Nevertheless, lawmakers in eight states have started making
moves to ban the drug some are calling “the next marijuana,”
according to a recent Associated Press article. At least 16 more
states are considering some kind of restriction.

In Florida, state Rep. Mary Brandenburg is trying to make
possession of salvia a felony punishable by up to five years in
jail.

In California, Assemblyman Anthony Adams of San Bernardino
County introduced a bill in February to ban selling the herb to
minors.

Governor Schwarzenneger has yet to take a stance, but the state
Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill later this month. When
Broding tried the drug last year, he bought a gram of 10x salvia
from “head shop” Smoke Deal’s in Walnut for $40.

The hallucinogenic effects of salvia – an out-of-body feeling,
dizziness, impaired speech and hallucinations – can last anywhere
from five minutes to an hour.

“It’s a few minutes of fun and then you want to do it again,”
said Broding. “Your high is so short, it’s like 15 minutes. [But]
afterwards, you still have this weird high; it’s like this haze for
a couple hours.”

Rigazzi picked up some 40x butterfly bush salvia from a smoke
shop for $50 to have some fun with his friends.

“I enjoyed the trip,” said Rigazzi. “I don’t know if you can
call them hallucinations, but I could feel a centrifugal force. …
I was clinging to this blue blanket on the bed and imagined I was
riding on the leg of a giant Muppet. That sounds crazy, but I knew
the whole time that this was inside my head.”

Rigazzi and Broding said they could see the logic in banning
salvia.

“I think it’s a good thing that they should make it illegal, but
they should make marijuana legal,” said Broding. “If anything, I
think salvia is more of a gateway drug to hallucinogens. I don’t
think weed is a gateway drug to anything.”

Broding said the trips last such a short time, that as soon as
reality kicks back in he experiences the desire to do it more.

“Just when your body comes back to reality, you’re ready to try
it again,” he said.

Rigazzi said he is content with his one trip on salvia.

“I don’t know if I would care if it was made illegal,” said
Rigazzi. “I’ve only used the one pack and it is a pretty intense
experience, so I don’t know how often I’d like to repeat that.”

The salvia divinorum plant, indigenous to southern Mexico, was
originally used by ancient cultures as a healing herb and a way of
getting in touch with the dead or telling the future.

“The Shamans used to take it to get in touch with the dead, but
I think it just put them in touch with their imagination,” said
Rigazzi.

Students see logic in lawmakers

Brandon Tan/Poly Post

Students see logic in lawmakers’ attempts to ban ‘next marijuana’

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