Senator Flanagan Renews Call For Ban Of Hallucinogenic Drug

John J. Flanagan

July 26, 2007

In an effort to stem drug use among New York State's youth, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today renewed his push to ban the sale of Salvia Divinorum in New York State. This hallucinegin, which is widely claimed as having the same effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), is currently available via the Internet and in stores without age restrictions. Legislation sponsored by Senator Flanagan to ban the substance passed the Senate in February of this year.
The legislation has been sent to the Assembly for further action. The legislation, which would go into effect sixty days after becoming law, would subject violators to a $500 civil penalty per violation.

Salvia Divinorum, also known as Diviner’s Sage, Sister Salvia, Ska Maria Pastora or simply salvia, is a psychoactive plant from the mint family. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Salvia Divinorum is chewed or smoked to induce illusions and hallucinations, the diversity of which is described by users as similar to those induced by ketamine, mescaline, or psilocybin. It is currently under review by the medical and scientific community to determine if it should be a controlled substance.

The long-term effects of the drug are still being considered but according to the National Drug Intelligence Center there are indications that the negative long-term effects of Salvia divinorum may be similar to those produced by other hallucinogens such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) including depression and schizophrenia. Some abusers also indicate that long-term abuse can cause hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, or "flashbacks."

Numerous individuals report experiencing negative effects during their first experience with Salvia divinorum and indicate that they would not use it a second time. Some others report that the drug caused them to become introverted and sometimes unable to communicate clearly.

"Any drug that causes hallucinations must be closely regulated and Salvia Divinorum is one of those drugs. This is a drug that is known to affect people adversely and that has the possibility of causing long term damage and we need to get it off the shelves. It makes no sense to ban other hallucinogenic drugs while still permitting Salvia to be sold. This is a sensible ban that will protect our younger New Yorkers," said Senator Flanagan.

Senator Flanagan noted that his office found dozens of web sites offering Salvia Divinorum for sale and tips on how to best use it. Delaware, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee have already banned certain uses of the drug and federal legislation has been introduced to register Salvia Divinorum as a controlled substance but it has not yet been enacted. It has been listed as a "chemical of concern" by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

One of the most severe cases on record was reported last year in USA Today article last year where the drug was blamed by the Delaware family of a teenager who committed suicide after using the hallucinogen. According to the article, the note that Brett Chidester left describing his feelings prior to killing himself were similar to the experiences other users have spoken about.

The teen had purchased the drug legally via the Internet.

"Salvia is the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen in the world, more so than LSD. I find it unconscionable that Salvia is unregulated in most states in the US, and is readily available to anyone, of any age. It's effects on the brain chemistry of the young can be catastrophic as evidenced by the death of my only child, Brett Chidester, while under it's influence," said Brett’s mom Kathy Chidester. "Please move forward, as my state of Delaware has, and enact ‘Brett's Law’ in your state of New York. You can ensure that no other family will ever endure the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one to this most insidious drug."

"The federal government has left it up to the states to regulate this drug and it is time for New York State to do just that. This is a drug that at the least causes a disconnect with reality and that alone is reason enough to ban it," concluded Senator Flanagan. "I urge the Assembly to join us in fighting to get Salvia out of our children’s hands."

Senator Flanagan was recently featured on WCBS-TV in a report about his efforts to ban Salvia Divinorum.