A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Tyler Weir
A new legislative proposal is set to make the purchase of salvia divinorum illegal in the state of Florida. The proposed ban comes amid increasing media publicity stemming from a rash of YouTube videos showing teenagers experiencing the after effects of salvia and because it is said to cause a legal buzz. Salvia has been blamed in the 2006 death of a Delaware teen but there is little or no research on its effects, leading salvia proponents to dispute the validity of the report.
Salvia is among the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern. A mild hallucinogen, salvia is billed as the next marijuana. It is grown naturally in Mexico and believed by the Mazatec Indians to have healing properties. Though many states have already outlawed salvia, it is widely available through the Internet and is sold legally in smoke shops throughout Florida, in a variety of potencies, ranging from 5x-80x.
Florida State Rep. Mary Brandenburg has spearheaded a bill that would add salvia to the state’s schedule I list of controlled substances, the same class as marijuana and LSD. The law would make salvia illegal for sale or possession and punishable by up to five years in prison.
“As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one,” said Brandenburg in an Associated Press interview.
The negative light cast on salvia by the media has been met with great fervor from enthusiasts. Some claim that the proposed ban is another case of the government acting impulsively where it should be concerned with larger issues.
“There’s really nothing to protect against. I think it’s a rush of judgment,” said Taylor Yaney, 25, an HCC student.
Shop owners are also feeling the pinch of Florida’s impending ban. Noah Greene, owner of Hot Wax, an Ybor City music and party supply store, has sold salvia at his shop since 2002. Specialty shops in Ybor City rely heavily on dollars from tourists. Greene, anticipates that the ban having an impact on out-of-town customers, not just Floridians.
“Out-of-town customers travel light and if those people are looking for a quick buzz and they don’t do drugs salvia is legal and is available here. It will affect my out-of-state customers because some won’t understand why it’s illegal in Florida but not in their state,” said Greene.
Greene believes that the media panic has led to a rise in salvia’s popularity. He estimates that he gets asked about salvia as many as 75 times a day.
“After awhile, it gets comical,” Greene said.
The government’s ban is geared to protect against the perception that youngster’s may abuse salvia, since it is legally sold and largely available for purchase. Greene says that the demographic of his customers is from age 18-70. He says that salvia is made out to be a rich man’s drug but he finds that untrue.
“If two kids each have 15 bucks, each can get them self a gram.”
The actual hallucinogenic effects of salvia can vary, though most would agree that while intense, the reactions last for less than an hour. Concerns over the potentially harmful consequences of salvia use have kickstarted a nationwide buzz. The media frenzy has fueled the public’s curiosity towards salvia and has in turn exposed the government’s hastiness to react.
“As a smoke shop I have all sorts of legal smokeable items. I feel bad for the consumer that won’t be able to purchase salvia. Monetarily, I’ll find another item to replace it. The government is always going to ban the next thing,” said Greene.
As for Greene, he expects Hot Wax to feel a rush from customers the week prior to any ban being imposed. He says he will never raise his prices and plans to comply with whatever the government dictates, though he sympathizes with his customers.