Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No need to ban salvia

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St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover may well be -- along with all the other parents she insists share her fears -- "very worried about the long-term effects" of salvia divinorum, but until that or some other evil of smoking this herb is established by scientific evidence, the hallucinogen ought not be banned. There is little science that says it is dangerous to human health and safety.

Salvia, regulated in Canada as a natural health product, has been compared to marijuana, except that it produces more often a wild psychedelic trip rather than a cosy high. Those who smoke, inhale or chew it can experience an out-of-body sensation or the sense that they become inanimate objects, such as a table leg. Others collapse into laughing fits. Infamously, Miley Cyrus was sure that a guy at her party looked exactly like her boyfriend. Ms. Cyrus' mini-trip wrote salvia onto the parental watch lists -- who would want their newly minted 18-year-old to indelibly imprint their own "this is your brain on salvia" on YouTube?

Ms. Glover and fellow MPs in the Harper government seem to be taking their drug-watch cues from YouTube and the alarmist anecdotes of legislators in other countries who have acted rashly to ban salvia, a member of the mint family used traditionally by Mexico's Mazatec natives to produce spiritual visions. The hallucinations can be intense, but are short-lived.

There is no evidence salvia is addictive or toxic. Ms. Glover is probably right on the money when she says most parents would not want their children smoking salvia. It should probably be regulated, like alcohol. Making an herb's sale, cultivation or possession punishable as a criminal offence, simply because it makes people see weird things or act funny, is hammering up a solution to a non-problem.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2011 A10

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