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Salvia divinorum possession

Published (3/18/2010)
By Mike Cook
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Salvia divinorum is becoming the drug of choice for more teenagers and twenty-somethings.

A bill awaiting action on the House floor calls for a person who sells any amount of salvia divinorum to be guilty of a gross misdemeanor; a person who possesses the substance would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Sponsored by Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead), HF2975 was approved March 11 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee. A companion, SF2773, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Coming from a Mexican herb and known for its hallucinogenic effects that are often compared to LSD, salvia divinorum is either chewed or smoked. Its effects include perceptions of bright lights and vivid colors, uncontrolled laughter and hallucinations. Harmful physical effects may include lack of coordination, dizziness and slurred speech.

Its use is illegal in 17 states, and 10 others are considering action, Lanning said. “This is a felony in North Dakota, it’s a felony in certain aspects in South Dakota, and Wisconsin just passed making this drug illegal. Minnesota is an island, so hopefully we’ll fix that.”

Moorhead Police Chief Dave Ebinger said local head shops sell salvia divinorum. “These shops represent themselves as tobacco shops and restrict anyone under the age of 18 from entering; however, this material in question can be purchased there, can be brought out and be provided easily through sale or just given to anyone of any age. … We have more consequences attached to providing a pack of Marlboros to a 10 year old. We have no consequences attached to this substance.”

Carol Falkowski, director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the Department of Human Services, said federal authorities are aware of the drug, but they do not have “a preponderance of evidence about negative consequences.”

She said a 2009 national survey indicated 5.9 percent of high school seniors had used salvia divinorum, more than have used the drug ecstasy.

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