If H.F. 2975 (companion S.F. 2773) authored by Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, becomes law, Minnesota will ban the sale of the psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum and criminalize its possession as a misdemeanor offense. Lanning has authored a separate House bill which would make salvia a Schedule I controlled substance.
Research on salvia has been increasingly popular. According to Dr. Bryan Roth at Case Western Reserve University, salvia is “the most potent naturally-occurring hallucinogenic drug.” By 2006, studies had suggested that its primary active ingredient, salvinorin A, could lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.
As far as drugs go, salvia does not appear to be particularly dangerous. No long-term negative outcomes have been reported from its use. There have been no reported cases of addiction in the scientific literature as the drug can be unpleasant. In one case, salvia brought on persistent psychosis, but no one is recorded as dying because of salvia in either the U.K. or the United States. These realities don't trip up Rep. Lanning: a drug war is good politics.
In 1986, then President Ronald Reagan declared that drug users are “as dangerous to our national security as any terrorist.” Unfortunately for the humanity's more rational endeavors, such dogma is alive and well. Clearly, certain lawmakers are willing to criminalize a substance in order to score political points among unduly terrorized parents. But bans like this serve another purpose: the maintenance of law and order, or more accurately, the maintenance of the politically-valuable misbelief that drug criminalization aids in our national security.
If this strategy is a reality, one would expect drug policy to reflect a less-than-accurate level of danger. A growing body of research suggests some Schedule I drugs like marijuana, ecstasy or the well-studied lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are actually less risky than Schedule II counterparts like methamphetamine or morphine. With respect to mortality, these drugs are safer than alcohol and tobacco. Our drug schedule is nonsense, and it impedes scientific research.
MDMA, or “ecstasy” as it is known on the street, was finding increasing currency among couples’ therapists when it was made a Schedule I substance by congress in 1985, against the request of researchers and psychologists. Washington proved unable to take expert opinion any more seriously than a junkie's. Today, it's Lanning turn to get a drug war fix.
Representative Lanning, on unsolicited behalf of Minnesota’s largest public research university, these bills exemplify the incurious. Thank you for reminding us how useful the opportunists find a fear-driven politics.
John Brown welcomes comments at email@example.com.
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