Salvia: The new pot, yet legal

By Nikki Gaskins - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's a drug that's being called the "new pot" and it's raising some pretty big eyebrows among lawmakers nationwide. Already this year, one South Carolina lawmaker has tried to ban the drug salvia.

Unlike marijuana, the effects of salvia are being compared to that of LSD, and it's perfectly legal.

"My imagination just went wild," said one Surfside Beach salvia user, who wished to remain anonymous. "On one part of my mind I knew what was going on, but the other part I couldn't control it."

The 26-year-old recalled his most recent encounter with the drug.

"I have these plastic owl lights," he said. "I was actually talking to them and trying to feed them. Every time I tried to talk it was just laughter."

According to Dr. John Charles with Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, "Salvia stimulates brain cells in a way that no other hallucinogen does."

Charles said the high associated with salvia is short-lived.

"It may last five or 10 minutes and then you might have a period of feeling odd for another half hour," Charles explained. "It's creating some controversy because it's sold and it's not regulated."

Twelve states have already outlawed the potent herb. The DEA lists salvia only as a drug of concern, which means local law enforcement can't stop the use or sale of the drug.

"Any drug that alters your mental status is going to be dangerous," Charles stressed.

The drug is easy to buy. Salvia is sold on-line, and throughout the Grand Strand. WMBF purchased the drug at a novelty shop, and before leaving the store, the clerk warned us just how strong it really is.

"You'll be gone for 10 minutes. You won't know where you are," the clerk commented. "You better have someone watching you making sure you don't do anything stupid."

In 2005, Myrtle Beach City Spokesman Mark Kruea said the council urged lawmakers to ban the drug statewide.

"We do watch things such as this to make sure that they don't cause problems," Kruea said.

This year, State Rep. Chip Huggins (R-Columbia) introduced a bill to make salvia illegal in South Carolina, however, the bill never made it to the senate floor.

"The state legislature, DHEC are all aware of this drug," Kruea said. "They've apparently not decided to do anything about it."

While he's used the drug, the salvia user from Surfside Beach thinks someone should do something about it.

"I think it should definitely be illegal," he said. "I just did a small amount, and I can only imagine if I did a lot more than that. I would be incapable of functioning."
Currently, there are no known long term side effects of salvia. The drug has been used for centuries by Mazatec shamans in Mexico to help them achieve higher states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.

Several foreign countries have already banned salvia, including Australia, Denmark, and Italy.

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