Drug Suppliers use Loophole to sell 'Magic Mint'

Adam Nathan  (c) London Times July 15, 2001

Salvia: sold as dried leaves AN obscure hallucinogenic herb from
Mexico has become the latest fashion in the world of recreational
drug-taking. Suppliers are using a loophole in the law to sell the
powerful drug known as Lady Salvia or the magic Mexican mint - to
young people.

Users have reported sensations of traveling through time and space,
assuming the identities of other people and merging with inanimate
objects. Experts say they are risking their minds, and perhaps  their
lives, by taking the drug.

Salvia divinorum, a type of sage used for thousands of years in
Mexican Indian rituals, is legal in Britain and America and is
available on the internet.

Originally found in only one square mile of the Oaxaca region of
Mexico, it is either chewed or smoked and causes a short but intense
high. In New York's Greenwich Village, it has triggered a
mini-renaissance of 1960s psychedelic culture; there is even a rock
band called Salvia.

In Amsterdam, where large-scale indoor marijuana growing is now
outlawed, cannabis growers have switched to salvia, flooding the
European market.

In Britain there are about a dozen suppliers of dried salvia leaves.
Most do not advertise it as a drug but as incense, mainly through
fears that they will be sued if people are damaged by their
experience of taking it.

Experts say the leaves of the plant are often super-impregnated with
the active hallucinatory ingredient salvinorin A to make it up to 20
times stronger. This enhanced leaf sells for up to 80 a gram.

The drug's increasing popularity, coupled with scientific
acknowledgment of its mind-bending powers, has prompted the Home
Office to review its legal status. But it could take years to ban it.

Dr Tim Kendall, an expert based at the University of Sheffield, said:
"When you take salvia you are playing with fire. People can be very
damaged in terms of their personal functioning. They frequently have
flashbacks that intrude into their life, which can be almost like a
post-traumatic stress problem after very bad experiences."

In 1994 Daniel Seibert, a Californian ethnobotanist, first isolated
the psychotropic part of the herb and tested it on a human - himself
- with an accidental overdose of  2mg of pure salvinorin A.

"One minute I was sitting on my couch expecting nothing to happen and
the next I was in a deep out-of-body experience," he said. "I was
panicking because I felt I must have died. "After a little while I
regained sensory awareness and opened my eyes and looked around me
and realised that I was in my grandparents' home from when I was a
child. I had come back into the wrong place in my life history. It
was extraordinary. The certainty and the detail made it so real."

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