Sunday, August 19, 2007

Alaska SB 38 Would Outlaw Possession, Use Or Manufacture Of Salvia Divinorum, A Potentially Dangerous Psychoactive Drug

While doing my nightly scan of current events in my former home state of Utah, I noticed a story published in the Deseret Morning News (dated August 19th, 2007) reporting that the Base Commander at Hill Air Force Base had just extended the ban on salvia divinorum to include civilian personnel. The article also listed several states considering a ban on the substance, and Alaska was listed as one of them.

Well, gollee! This blog isn't called ALASKA Pride for nothing, and so Alaska Pride hit the trail to find out more about this. And guess what. I found out that back in 2006, during the 24th Legislature session, Senator Gene Therriault (R-North Pole) introduced SB 313 to declare salvia divinorum a controlled substance and ban it. However, the bill went nowhere during the session.

Undaunted, the good senator from North Pole tried it again in January 2007 after the 25th Legislature had gaveled in. This time, it was redesignated SB 38, entitled "Salvia Divinorum As Controlled Substance". Here's the fact sheet on the bill, fleshed out a bit with some background commentary:

Summary (the bill would amend
AS 11.71.150(b))

- Classifies Salvia Divinorum as a Schedule IIA controlled substance.

- Class B felony for manufacturing, delivering or possessing on school grounds or similar areas.

- Class C felony for possessing.

- Unclassified felony for selling to a person under the age of 19 under certain circimstances.

Benefits (of the bill, not the drug):

- Illegalizes a dangerous substance that can cause unpredictable physiological and psychological effects in the user.

Background: Known as "Sally D" on the street, Salvia Divinorum is part of the Lamiacaea family of plants. It is grown primarily in Mexico and can be shipped or sold over the counter to anyone 18 years or older. The plant leaves can be ingested or inhaled, and can cause unpredictable physiological and psychological effects and erratic behavior in the user. It has been banned in at least ten countries and four other states, including Delaware, where it is being called Brett's Law after a promising young man, Brett Chidester, committed suicide at the age of 17 in 2006 after using the drug.

The bill was promptly relegated to the Senate Finance Committee, where it became dormant after the 25th Legislature gaveled out on April 30th, 2007, although it could be resurrected in any special session called later this year.

As aside note, on August 3rd, Brett's parents, Dennis and Kathy Chidester, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against F. Pratt, a resident of British Columbia, Canada; Herbalife International and Ethnosupply, companies based in British Columbia; and Herbalife Stores and Herbalife & Essence, businesses in Culver City, Calif. The suit claims the distributors knew salvia could be dangerous and failed to warn the Chidesters' son, Brett, when he purchased a package of salvia over the Internet in August 2005. Many Internet sites market salvia divinorum as a legal high and do not restrict sales to minors. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses, and lost future earnings, as well as punitive damages. One of the justifications for the suit is that the Delaware Medical Examiner's Office ruled that "salvia divinorum use" was a contributing factor to Brett's death by carbon monoxide, which occurred when he lit a charcoal grill inside a pitched tent in his father's garage. He left a suicide note.

There is some serious justification for SB38. Even the proponents of "Sally-D" acknowledge it's not for the faint-hearted. While the effects are short-lived, lasting anywhere from 30-60 minutes, they can vary in intensity from a mild buzz to a moderate acid trip all the way up to a rohypnol (the date rape drug) experience.

And one of the proponents is the operator of the site, who published a "Salvia Divinorum User's Guide". While favorably disposed towards the drug, this person clearly spells out the range of effects and suggests several important precautions. Here's the part that discusses duration and effects:

Precautions and Duration:

Because Salvia divinorum can alter perception and behavior, it must never be used in a public environment--doing so could draw unwelcome attention. When the effects are intense, people often become immersed in a dream-like inner visionary state of awareness. Sometimes people in this state will move around as if sleepwalking. For this reason, you should always have a sober sitter present when using strong doses. The sitter is there to make sure that you don't do anything dangerous, like knocking over lit candles, or falling over furniture.

When Salvia is smoked the effects come on very quickly, in less than a minute. The effects are only strong for 5-6 minutes, and then they quickly taper off over another 20-30 minutes.

When the leaves are chewed, the first effects come on at about 15 minutes and gradually develop to peak about 30 minutes after ingestion. The peak level of effects lasts 30 minutes to an hour, and then gradually diminish over an additional 30 minutes to an hour.

When taken as a tincture held in the mouth, the effects begin in 10-15 minutes, and quickly develop to a peak level that lasts 20-40 minutes. The effects then gradually diminish over an additional 30 minutes to an hour. To be on the safe side, it is important not to drive or use machinery for at least an hour after the experience appears to be ended.

Usually people feel clearheaded and mentally refreshed after a Salvia experience. Occasionally some people experience mild headaches after smoking Salvia. It appears that such headaches are the result of smoke-induced sinus irritation. Like tobacco smoke, Salvia smoke is probably somewhat irritating to the lungs.

Salvia experiences can be divided into various levels of intensity. The SALVIA Experiential Rating Scale has been constructed to rate the various levels of effects produced by salvia. Each letter of the word SALVIA stands for another level of effects. The scale describes six different levels of intoxication, each one more intense than the previous. The overall intensity of effects is scored according to the highest scale level attained during the course of the experience.

The SALVIA Experiential Rating Scale

Level - 1 "S" stands for SUBTLE effects. A feeling that "something" is happening, although it is difficulty to say just what. Relaxation and increased sensual appreciation may be noted. This mild level is useful for meditation and may facilitate sexual pleasure.

Level - 2 "A" stands for ALTERED perception. Colors and textures are more pronounced. Appreciation of music may be enhanced. Space may appear of greater or lesser depth than is usual. But visions do not occur at this level. Thinking becomes less logical, and more playful; short-term memory difficulties may be noted. [Ed. Note: This is similar to a marijuana "high".]

Level - 3 "L" stands for LIGHT visionary state. Closed-eye visuals (clear imagery with eyes closed: fractal patterns, vine-like and geometric patterns, visions of objects and designs). The imagery is often two dimensional. If open-eyed visual effects occur, these are usually vague and fleeting. At this level, phenomena similar to the hypnagogic phenomena that some people experience at sleep onset occur. At this level, visions are experienced as "eye candy" but are not confused with reality.

Level - 4 "V" stands for VIVID visionary state. Complex three-dimensional realistic appearing scenes occur. Sometimes voices may be heard. With eyes open, contact with consensual reality will not be entirely lost, but when you close your eyes you may forget about consensus reality and enter completely into a dreamlike scene. Shamanistic journeying to other lands--foreign or imaginary; encounters with beings (entities, spirits) or travels to other ages may occur. You may even live the life of another person. At this level you have entered the shaman's world. Or if you prefer: you are in "dream time." With eyes closed, you experience fantasies (dream like happenings with a story line to them). So long as your eyes are closed you may believe they are really occurring. This differs from the "eye candy" closed-eye imagery, of level 3. [Ed. Note: Similar to the advanced stages of an "acid" trip.]

Level - 5 "I" stands for IMMATERIAL existence. At this level one may no longer be aware of having a body. Consciousness remains and some thought processes are still lucid, but one becomes completely involved in inner experience and looses all contact with consensual reality. Individuality may be lost; one experiences merging with God/dess, mind, universal consciousness, or bizarre fusions with other objects--real or imagined (e.g. experiences such as merging with a wall or piece of furniture). At this level it is impossible to function in consensual reality, but unfortunately some people do not remain still but move around in this befuddled state. For this reason a sitter is essential to ensure the safety of someone voyaging to these deep levels. To the person experiencing this the phenomenon may be terrifying or exceedingly pleasant; but to an outside observer the individual may appear confused or disoriented.

Level 6 - "A" stands for AMNESIC effects. At this stage, either consciousness is lost, or at least one is unable to later recall what one had experienced. The individual may fall, or remain immobile or thrash around; somnambulistic behavior may occur. Injuries can be sustained without pain being felt; on awakening, the individual will have no recollection of what he/she did, experienced, or said in level 6. People cannot recall what they experience in this very deep trance state. This is not a desirable level, because nothing can latter be recalled of the experience. [Ed. Note: This is quite similar to how women feel after they recover from a rohypnol experience]

Recommendation: This is just one more import from Mexico that is detrimental to society. The Alaska State Legislature needs to act on SB 38 and pass it. Psychoactive drugs are far too unpredictable to be allowing them in society. Senator Therriault is to be commended for his interest and persistence in closing this gap.


  1. From what I've read Salvia D is one of the most powerful hallucinogenic drugs in the world. It alters brain chemistry, most especially in those under the age of 25. How can it be that it's still legal? The DEA needs to get on this and now! Hope the great state of Alaska follows suit of the other proactive states and outlaws it's sale and use. No more lives should be put at peril, especially those of our young.

  2. it's pathetic to see people like yoursel[ves] just dying to give control to the Federal Government. people like you will be the first to be culled (lined up and shot) as "traitors" when America is inevitably subsidized in sweeping containment by the military. "I just can't stand the fact that some kids out there are getting high off an obscure mexican plant" WHO CARES? That someone got high, or that there isn't an authority with the power to tell a person they no longer have the liberty of choice?