Salvia divinorum, regarded as the world's most potent hallucinogenic herb, is broadly available for lawful sale online and in head shops across the nation, says the New York Times, which calls it “something of a phenomenon among this country's thrill-seeking youth.” More than 5,000 YouTube videos have helped popularize salvia and “may also hasten its demise and undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses,” says the newspaper.
Pharmacologists who believe salvia could help treat addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects. In state after state, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. This year, Florida made possession or sale a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. California took a gentler approach by making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute to minors. The Drug Enforcement Administration has spent more than a decade studying whether to add salvia to its list of controlled substances, as is the case in several European and Asian countries. In the meantime, 13 states and several local governments have banned or regulated the plant and its chemically enhanced extracts.