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Legislature looks at banning salvia

Salvia divinorum

A new hallucinogenic drug is making its way to Minnesota.

The drug, salvia divinorum, a Mexican herb known for producing short and intense highs, is currently legal in Minnesota.

However, lawmakers are working toward banning the sale and possession of this ever-increasingly popular drug, joining North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is the chief author of a bill that would make the possession of salvia divinorum a misdemeanor and the sale of the drug a gross misdemeanor, according to a legislative update sent from Ingebrigtsen's office on March 19.

"We are taking a proactive approach to getting this drug off our streets before it becomes a serious public health issue," said Ingebrigtsen.

He noted that the bill passed through the Judiciary Committee and was approved in the Senate Monday.

Locally in Douglas County, the drug is being talked about and used by a small majority, although it's not something street officers see much of, according to Scot Umlauf, special agent in charge with the West Central Minnesota Drug Task Force.

Umlauf explained that the plant comes from Mexico and likes to grow in humid, moist, warm temperatures. He said this variety of salvia - salvia divinorum - doesn't grow well in Minnesota weather.

It's doesn't have seeds like marijuana. Instead, its leaves are used for smoking and eating. Additionally, the leaves can also be turned into a liquid form, like alcohol, for drinking.

The most common way to use it, however, is to smoke it, said Umlauf.

The high doesn't last real long, about five minutes, he explained, adding that it is similar to LSD, but without the long-term effects.

"The high lasts no more than five minutes," he said. "It puts you in a good mood, but it's short-lived."

He noted that because it is such a new drug, there haven't been many studies on it and in all reality, the long-term effects are not really known.

Umlauf also indicated that there is no known medical value to the drug.

Parents should talk to their children about it and the community should be aware that there are dangers that go along with it, he said.

For instance, if people use the drug while driving, it would be very dangerous, said Umlauf.

Even though the drug is currently legal, Umlauf suggested for the public to keep their eyes and ears open and to be aware of what's going on and to talk openly about it with kids.

Umlauf has heard of one death that was reported on the East Coast as a result of someone using salvia.

He also learned that a North Dakota man was facing charges related to salvia and ended up pleading guilty to Class C felony possession of salvia, Class A misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and Class B misdemeanor of marijuana.

The man will be on supervised probation for three years; he has to complete a chemical dependency evaluation and receive recommended treatment; and pay $575 in court fees.


Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb in the mint family native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is not controlled under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The plant has large green leaves, hollow square stems and white flowers with purple calyces. Street names for Salvia divinorum are Maria Pastora, Sage of the Seers, Diviner's Sage, Salvia, Sally-D and Magic Mint.

Salvia divinorum was first discovered in the late 1930s by anthropologists studying medicinal and magical cures in Mexico. It has been used by the Mazatec Indians for its ritual divination and healing. In the United States, the plant material is typically chewed or smoked. When chewed, the leaf mass and juice are absorbed across the lining of the oral mucosa (mouth tissue).

Effects first appear within five to 10 minutes. Dried leaves and extract-enhanced leaves are smoked. When an individual smokes pure salvinorin A, at a dose of 200 to 500 micrograms, effects are experienced within 30 seconds and last about 30 minutes.

Psychic effects include perceptions of bright lights, vivid colors and shapes, as well as body movements and body or object distortions. Other effects include dysphoria, uncontrolled laughter, a sense of loss of body, overlapping realities and hallucinations.

Adverse physical effects may include incoordination, dizziness and slurred speech.