Salvia Divinorum & Cognitive Liberty
Frequently Asked Questions
(last updated 20 February 2003)
1. What is Salvia
(a.k.a. Diviner’s Sage, Seer’s Sage, Hojas de la Pastora, or Ska Maria
Pastora) is a psychoactive plant native to the eastern Sierra Madre in
Mexico. A member of the mint family, Salvia is used by the Mazatec
Indians of that region for its medicinal and vision-inducing properties.
Preliminary scientific investigation of Salvinorin A, the plant’s
active principle, suggests a unique chemical structure and great therapeutic
potential. Salvia was first introduced to the United States in 1962 and
remained virtually unknown until a recent article in the New York Times
created public interest in the plant as a legal hallucinogen.
2. Why is Salvia
an Issue for the CCLE?
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics believes that people have a
fundamental right to access the full spectrum of cognition, to engage
in multiple modalities of thought, and to occasion alternative states
consciousness. Because Salvia divinorum is both legal in the US and
visionary, some law-abiding people have relied upon it to occasion
profound alternative states of consciousness without fear of
October 10, 2002, federal legislation (HR 5607) was introduced to make
Salvia and its active principle, Salvinorin A, schedule I drugs under
the federal Controlled Substances Act. Although HR 5607 died in committee
last year (see HR 5607 archive),
Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA), the bill’s sponsor, has vowed to reintroduce
it this year. Schedule I is reserved for dangerous drugs that pose great
risks to public safety. The CCLE opposes the inappropriate scheduling
of Salvia as an unwarranted extension of the War on Drugs.
3. What is the Salvia
Divinorum Defense Fund?
Salvia Divinorum Defense
Fund was established with tax-deductible contributions to help
CCLE educate policy makers and the public about Salvia divinorum and
advocate against its scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. To
date publication of a CCLE informative report on
Salvia, filing of a Freedom of
Information Act Request seeking DEA information about the plant,
coordination of a broad based coalition of organizations, experts, and
activists who oppose scheduling, and monitoring and reporting on legislative
activity concerning the plant have all been made possible by the fund. You
can learn more about CCLE’s work on Salvia and even make a donation
to the Salvia Divinorum Defense Fund by visiting the
Salvia Divinorum Action Center
on our website.
4. Why would inclusion
of Salvia divinorum and Salvinorin A in Schedule I be inappropriate?
Schedule I is
typically reserved for dangerous drugs that have a high potential for abuse
and no current medical use. The placement of Salvia in schedule I
cannot be scientifically justified.
- Salvia does
not have a high potential for abuse.
relatively unknown and is not widely used. Reports of Salvia
experiences tend to emphasize the plant’s potentially disturbing
psychoactive effects, making it unattractive as a recreational drug. No
Salvia poisonings or related emergency room visits have been
reported. The plant’s effects are short acting and lack any known
toxicity or health risks.
Salvia has tremendous medical potential and can be safely used under
Salvia has a long history of medical use in the folk tradition of
the Mazatec Indians for relief from anemia, headache, and rheumatism. An
article in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology reported its
recent successful use in treating a patient’s chronic depression. Current
scientific research, supported by ethno-botanical data, suggests that
Salvinorin A holds promising therapeutic potential in the fields of
psychopharmacology, psychiatry, and herbal medicine.
classification would make scientific research on Salvia virtually
Once a plant is placed in Schedule I, scientific research with the plant
becomes next to impossible. One need only look at the situation with
respect to Cannabis and medical marijuana to see how federal “drug
war” politics makes even medicinal use of, and research on, a Schedule I
plant very difficult. Given that scientists are just beginning to find
promising medical uses for Salvia divinorum, placement of the plant
in Schedule I threatens to forestall the development of new and effective
CURRENT USE PATTERNS
5. How is Salvia used?
Salvia is generally
acknowledged as a difficult drug to use. The leaves are either chewed or
smoked. The intense bitterness of the leaves makes oral ingestion
unpleasant while smoking them requires the rapid inhalation of large volumes
6. What do the effects
of Salvia feel like?
psychoactive effects are inconsistent and short-lived. Even the
isolated chemical produces brief effects in humans. Few people consider the
effects pleasurable, and most people choose not to repeat the experience
after one exposure. Many describe the appearance of geometric shapes in
their field of vision, while at higher doses, brief “out of body
experiences” or visionary states may be
7. Is it true that
some people use Salvia spiritually or religiously?
Some drugs and
visionary plants can help users attain mystical states of consciousness.
Some people take Salvia with the intent of having a spiritual or
religious experience and claim to be able to achieve one from it. It is used
this way, for example, by the Indians of the Sierra Mazatec, in Mexico.
8. Isn’t Salvia use
prevalent in the youth culture and visible at raves?
Contrary to claims made
by parties seeking to schedule Salvia, it is not the “new
ecstasy.” Reports of widespread Salvia use at raves have yet to
be substantiated. The fact that Salvia is difficult to use and does
not generally produce fun or pleasurable effects makes the popular
recreational use of Salvia highly unlikely.
PUBLIC SAFETY CONCERNS
hallucinogens inherently dangerous?
substance can be potentially dangerous if it is used irresponsibly.
There are no known medical complications, poisonings, deaths, or cases of
dependency associated with Salvia. Any danger from the use of
Salvia would most likely arise from anxiety reactions experienced
by the user or the possibility of accidents occurring while users try to
walk or engage in other activities while visually impaired. Anxiety
reactions are generally self-limiting due to the brief duration of the
effects and respond to quiet reassurance. Additionally, extraneous noise or
even opening the eyes may completely terminate the plant’s short-lived
10. Congressman Baca
alleges that Salvia caused a teenager to stab someone, is this true?
There is one known
case involving a minor who claims to have smoked Salvia, become
disoriented, and stabbed another person who was selling him marijuana. The
stabbing was not fatal. Because the case involves a minor, the
record including the arrest report is sealed and it is very difficult to
clearly determine the exact details of the event and what role Salvia
may have played in it. We do know that the minor raised Salvia
intoxication as a defense to the stabbing charges and that the judge
reviewing the evidence rejected that defense.
Won’t children have access to Salvia if it is not scheduled the way
Congressman Baca proposes?
Salvia is not as simple a solution as it may seem. Prohibiting a
substance often makes it more attractive (a result known as the
forbidden fruit effect) and creates a black market for it, which,
ironically, makes it easier to obtain for minors. It has been
reported for example that minors have easier access to marijuana than
beer, because access to alcohol is better controlled.
prohibition would keep responsible adults who have been using
Salvia without incident and legitimate scientific researchers from
having access to the plant as well.
are less restrictive alternatives to complete prohibition. The
town of St. Peters, Missouri, for example, has passed a local ordinance
limiting Salvia divinorum sales to adults aged 18 and over.
Salvia Divinorum Action Center
For the latest updates on Salvia divinorum's legal
status, please visit our
Salvia Divinorum Action Center, and subscribe to our top news e-mail
service (see above left).
Please donate to the
Salvia Divinorum Defense Fund