Salvia divinorum is being targeted by U.S. lawmakers concerned that the inexpensive and easy-to-obtain plant could become the next marijuana, media reported Wednesday.
Eight states have already placed restrictions on salvia, and 16 others, including Florida, are considering a ban or have previously.
Salvia divinorum is not one of the several varieties of common ornamental garden plants known as salvia.
Called nicknames like Sally-D, Magic Mint and Diviner’s Sage, salvia is a hallucinogen that gives users an out-of-body sense of traveling through time and space or merging with inanimate objects. Unlike hallucinogens like LSD or PCP, however, salvia’s effects last for a shorter time, generally up to an hour.
“It’s much more powerful than marijuana.” said Jonathan Appel, an assistant professor of psychology and criminal justice at Tiffin University in Ohio who has studied the emergence of the substance.
Native to Mexico and still grown there, salvia divinorum is generally smoked but can also be chewed or made into a tea and drunk.
No known deaths have been attributed to salvia’s use, but it was listed as a factor in one Delaware teen’s suicide two years ago.
Salvia’s short-lasting effects and the fact that it is currently legal may make it seem more appealing to teens, lawmakers say. In the Delaware suicide, the boy’s mother told reporters that salvia made his mood darker but he justified its use by citing its legality. According to reports, the autopsy found no traces of the drug in his system, but the medical examiner listed it as a contributing cause.
A study released last month by the Department of Health & Human Services found just under 2 percent of people age 18 to 25 surveyed in 2006 reported using salvia in the past year. A 2007 survey of more than 1,500 San Diego State University students found that 4 percent of participants reported using salvia in the past year.