A Legal Hallucinogen, at Least for Now

  A Legal Hallucinogen, at Least for Now

Posted by FoM on August 14, 2001 at 14:11:24 PT
By Anne-Marie O'Connor, Times Staff Writer 
Source: Los Angeles Times 

Looking like an Old West preacher, with an earnest manner and long wavy hair, an amateur botanist from Malibu takes the podium and soberly lectures a small but keenly interested audience on a hallucinogenic drug that is legal and available. This is Daniel Siebert, the local apostle of an unlikely Mexican herb called salvia divinorum, or diviner's sage. Like peyote, the sage is said to cause vivid hallucinations and a deeply transcendental sensation, and it has a tradition of ritual use by Native American shamans seeking spiritual realms. 
But salvia divinorum is not a controlled substance. Americans looking for consciousness-altering experiences buy it on Web sites, grow it in their yards and share their experiences at conventions.And they pepper Siebert with questions at appearances such as his Los Angeles lecture this year, which was videotaped and can be rented at some video outlets."It's a fairly rare thing to be working openly with a psychoactive drug," Siebert said in an interview at his home, perched on the edge of a Malibu ravine overlooking the sea.Information on the sage--and enthusiastic testimonials from users--is all over the Internet. The most elaborate Web site, Salvia Divinorum Research and Information -- -- is managed by Siebert, who sells the sage from his online Sage Wisdom Salvia Shop.Siebert worries that the exposure the drug is getting could lead to government intervention."The more press, the more people experimenting with it, and the more it will be seen as a problem or be used in an irresponsible way," Siebert said. "Like any drug that alters consciousness, if you do it and, say, get in a car, that can cause a problem."Anti-drug authorities are aware of the situation."We know it's out there," said federal Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Will Glaspy. "We're looking at it to see if it needs to be controlled."But at this point, "it's not a controlled substance," Glaspy said.Siebert and other advocates of the sage say it has psychoactive healing potential, and is not likely to be adopted as a recreational drug like Ecstasy or make an appearance on the rave scene."It is not something that will be passed around at parties and concerts," Siebert said. "That will limit its appeal. If you take it in a social context, you'll wish you hadn't. It's a very introspective experience. You can't walk around and socialize."He's not very happy about the "Salvia Divinorum" video. It intersperses his rather scholarly presentation with testimonials by sage users, intercut with trippy spiraling graphics reminiscent of late-night reruns of "Outer Limits.""I was just really annoyed with them," Siebert said. "I thought they did it really amateurishly."He is scheduled to talk about the sage again today on a radio program, "Vibrational Voyages," which is heard in the Santa Cruz area. He dispenses an encyclopedic array of information on his Web site, and he's writing a book.Such offerings usually reach a small audience--unlike a recent spate of press articles that circled the globe.It all began in December 1999, when Details, that hipper-than-thou bible/consumer catalog for affluent twentysomethings, trumpeted salvia divinorum as "The New Ecstasy: It's Not Illegal."Since then, there has been a small but growing drumbeat of reportage, mostly along the lines of "Lady Salvia: Mexican Mind Bender Like a Legal LSD," as a New Zealand News headline put it a couple of weeks ago.This kind of exposure, Siebert said, could "attract the attention" of U.S. anti-narcotics agents.The exposure has already had consequences.For the last three years, there has been a salvia divinorum conference in Oregon (chronicled on -- --) "but it won't be happening this year because the facility decided they didn't want to host it," Siebert said.He showed a visitor the scale on his table that he uses to weigh the sage and a bottle of sage extract that can be dispensed by the drop. The herb can also be chewed or smoked. The effects typically last an hour or less.Siebert said he believes the drug has deep healing properties. He points to a "trip report" sent to his Web site by a man who said he was so depressed after his lifetime companion died of cancer that he was considering suicide.When therapy and antidepressants failed to help, the man said, he turned to herbal remedies, finally stumbling upon the sage."The feeling was one of incredible lightness," the account said. "I felt as if I had shed an incredible burden."A friend of Siebert who experiments with the sage said the thoughtful testimonials show how divorced the sage experience is from the Ecstasy party scene."You know if you're having an experience like that, you don't want people pouring martinis over you and yelling," said the friend, who did not wish to give her name.She said that when she first tried the sage, she heard the sound of a child laughing and urging her to come and play. She saw multiple images of her face with different expressions: sad, happy, perplexed."I gained insights from that," she said. "A sense that you don't have to hide, that it is all part of you, and it's OK. A sense of self-acceptance."Siebert recounts even more vivid hallucinations, visions of smiling, benevolent elves and tiny woodland fairy homes."It's like a mirror," he said. "You break out of all the ways you relate because you don't have the means of escaping."Siebert took a visitor outside where, against the hillside, he keeps several sage plants under cloth to protect them from the cauterizing Malibu sun. He lifted up the cloth. The basil-green plants looked sad and tired.The sage's native range is the misty mountain cloud forests of Oaxaca, a rugged area in southern Mexico where the temperature hovers in the 60s much of the year. Shamans of the Mazatec Indians have used it for years.The plant was "discovered" for modern science in 1962 by Albert Hofmann, a chemist who was an early pioneer in LSD research, and Gordon Wasson, who went to Oaxaca to research psilocybin mushrooms and other hallucinogens.In recent years, it has aroused renewed scientific interest, because it is unclear precisely how it works on the brain.A Missoula, Mont., neurologist, Dr. Ethan Russo, who studied the sage while researching his "Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs," said that although scientists have isolated the chemical compound that triggers the hallucinations--salvinorin A--the sage does not act on known neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine.Jeremy Stewart is devoting his doctoral research to tracing the sage's interaction with the brain at the University of Mississippi's Department of Pharmacognosy, which is the study of drugs from natural products, such as plants."Most of the hallucinogens act on the serotonin system," Stewart said. "This molecule, salvinorin A, does not mimic any of the known neurotransmitters. So it's definitely a new jungle for discovery as far as brain research is concerned."Stewart's research will involve placing radioactive isotopes on the salvinorin A molecule and testing it on purified fractions of frozen mouse brains.Stewart just returned from the annual conference of the American Society of Pharmacognosy, which just happened to take place in Oaxaca. At the conference, "some people had interest, mainly younger scientists," he said."You always get a lot of mixed feelings about research into psychoactive substances," Stewart said. "But one thing you have to remember is that most of our understanding of the brain came from research into psychoactive substances."Stewart said he doesn't know anybody in Mississippi who takes the drug."It's a very introverted experience. There's no euphoric feeling whatsoever," he said. "It's very sudden, and it alters your perception substantially. Depending on your emotional state, it could be scary, because it will manifest whatever is inside of you." Drugs: Even as an advocate praises the 'healing potential' of diviner's sage, he hopes its growing exposure won't lead to government controls.Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: Anne-Marie O'Connor, Times Staff WriterPublished: August 14, 2001Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Articles: Drug Suppliers Use Loophole To Sell Magic Mint Pharmaceuticals Search - Ethan Russo M.D.

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Comment #16 posted by sgemn on September 07, 2001 at 12:23:34 PT
for "tm"
good words all true all should educate themselves if your not willing to do the reading leave it alone it will put the fear of god into you believe me. used right and with knowledge it can give you insight into urself it is not a recreational drug.
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Comment #15 posted by sgman on September 07, 2001 at 12:18:21 PT:
seeds dont grow
you need cuttings seeds arent viablecontact me for free cuttings in sf bay area only i wont mail dont ask
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Comment #14 posted by Doug on August 15, 2001 at 09:51:20 PT
Re: Control Midnset
I believe it was H.L. Menken who defined the Puritan creed: "The fear that somewhere, sombody might be enjoying themselves" and this is not allowed.Kap's (et al) screed on the mentality of the Drug Warrior seems to be on target. It reminds me of something I once read about the top officers in the Naazi Party. They also came from disturbed households -- check out the early childhood of A. Hitler, where his punishing father was much, much older than his mother, and there are suggestions of sexual abuse of the young Adolph. And so I think it certainly true that many (not all) of these people who want to control us (but only for our own good!) came from dysfunctional homes where they didn't have control, but the control was in the hands of their stern parents. I'm sure people like A.S. Neill (Summerhill school) have had this idea before. Unfortunately people like that get into positions of power (I mean, would any of those who are reading this really want to become a cop?) and thus get to try and control us.What's the solution? Better early home environment? Later toilet training? No one gets to be a cop who wants to be a cop? Seems like a pretty serious problem in society.
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Comment #13 posted by Sudaca on August 15, 2001 at 09:02:28 PT
to restate
"This is not a recreational substance. This isn't the new "legal (X, LSD, MJ, insert any drug name here)". This is a totally different and potentially dangerous substance that is not to be played with or taken lightly."For those of you who read these comments for the information you find; THIS IS NOT A RECREATIONAL / PARTY DRUG. You can get seriuosly injured by not understanding how Salvia Divinorum is used. For those who want to smoke it as a joint or so forget it ; won't get you much. For those playing with Salvinorin A, this is a tool for self discovery which will not benefit from a Party scene; If you go into a full trip you should be guarded by a sitter who is willing to take care of you for a while (a short one too). BTW, the cat is out of the bag already; Salvia has been discussed for 4-5 years now, and the antis already took notice; it may take a while to get this scheduled so..PREPARE for the new Black Market Opportunities!!
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Comment #12 posted by Sam Adams on August 15, 2001 at 08:32:20 PT
the anti mindset
PS, very interesting thread, Kapt. I had never really stopped to really consider what is going on inside the mind of the devout do-gooder, the modern-day Temperance ladies.You're right, there must be some kind of lust for control over other people, to justify some personal need for control, or a lack of self-esteem. The only one of the my close friends who is against legalizing cannabis is one of the most mentally screwed-up people I know - he's very shy, has chronic low self-esteem. Also, he recently had to stop drinking alcohol and is in substance abuse couseling. I think he hates the fact that everyone else smokes up & laughs and has a good time and has no problem with it. But he can't control his compulsion for alcohol, it was ruining his life and he hates us for it.It's so true, though - think about it. Imagine you really are appalled by the damage drug abuse causes. If you want to stop it, you go help drug-abusers! If you want to protect the children, TALK to them! Go work to educate them! You don't sic the police and politicians on them. That's just hatemongering. 
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Comment #11 posted by Sam Adams on August 15, 2001 at 08:20:33 PT
the next X.....
Very interesting comments here. I think we all are about to witness the full life-cycle of prohibition on this one. Look what happened for Cannabis and ecstacy. X has been avaialble since the 1920's! In the early 80's, some bars sold them, it was a trendy yuppie thing to pop one after a night of drinking to mellow out for the ride home.Then, a wave of sensationalist stories hit the media. "Ecstacy use on the rise"..."NEW drug can cause brain damage, says obscure Dr. Getalife", etc.  Of course, for each one, the proper DEA authorities, LEO, etc. were sought out for their opinion. Having nothing to offer to the media, the DEA realized they were missing an opportunity and quickly banned the substance, resulting in yet another wave of publicity, again with outlandish reports of danger, PLUS igniting the "forbidden fruit" appeal.Interdiction jacked up prices, bringing the worldwide crime syndicate/drug industry a new product line. All the media attention was a nifty advertising campaign for the drug (Oxycontin, anyone?), DARE began spreading the word to kids, and *bingo*, ecstacy use has EXPLODED since the mid- 80s when it was banned.Our system works flawlessly. Why do you think we have higher drug use than any country in Europe, ESPECIALLY among youth? None of this is a surprise to any high-level gov't official. With Communism gone, we need a large population of stigmatized, "evil" people to fuel our military-prison-enforcement infrastructure. I mean, what do you think keeps the Republicans in power? Unless you own a company or are a very high-level business exec, they don't benefit you. They remain in control by turning the ignorant, impressionable element of society against the weakest element of our society - minorities, the poor, and drug-users. Of course, the evil Commies were the most ideal, but they just couldn't keep their end of the bargain - the damn Russian economy collapsed and spoiled everything!The degree to which people allowed themselves to be programmed has always amazed me. Something like 40% of women vote Republican! I find that to be incredible! Well, I'm glad cannabisnews spreading the truth, the only antidote. As Bob Marley said, "The more man smoke herb, the faster Bablyon falls......."
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Comment #10 posted by TroutMask on August 15, 2001 at 07:40:00 PT
Wow, I've never seen so much Salvia disinformation in one spot (the comments here).I do not wish to condone or encourage the use of Salvia D, but disinformation can be worse than no information, so...1. I have never ever heard any reports of anyone puking when using Salvia, including all documented accounts at Some people sweat and/or exhibit other physical symptoms, but I have not met any of these people (face-to-face) to date.2. The high is not "weak" but probably the most intense experience humanly possible next to death, comparable with but probably much stronger than a DMT experience. That is part of what makes it so inappropriate as a "party drug".3. Salvia is in no way comparable to nor should it ever be construed as a marijuana substitute. The two experiences have nothing in common except that both are usually smoked. Some people drive while high on marijuana. Driving on Salvia will likely get you or someone else killed.4. Smoking regular-strength Salvia leaves is a waste of time for most people. The amount of the active ingredients (Salvinorin-A, -B) are rather low in the raw plant material.5. Salvia very rarely seeds, the viability of the seeds is extremely low, and the seedlings grow slowly and weak. The most common method or propagation is via cuttings. Don't waste your time looking for Salvia seeds, though they are available.6. If any of the facts above are news to you, do not try Salvia D. If you haven't researched enough to know these things, you are potentially endangering yourself if you try it. If you have a desire for more information, visit Daniel Seibert's site at and LEARN, but don't just buy the stuff and try it.This is not a recreational substance. This isn't the new "legal (X, LSD, MJ, insert any drug name here)". This is a totally different and potentially dangerous substance that is not to be played with or taken lightly.Sorry for the rant, but I have a personal connection to this plant. It is disinformation and uneducated experimental blundering that will inevitably lead to scheduling of this highly beneficial plant.-TM
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Comment #9 posted by The Offspring on August 15, 2001 at 04:58:26 PT
America a Deomcracy?
I was watching George W. Bush on CNN talk about how great a Democracy America was. I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.
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Comment #8 posted by dddd on August 14, 2001 at 20:46:50 PT
The Anti Mind
That was a good assessment of the anti mindset Kap....It's neurosis that is verging on psychosis....and as strange as itmay sound,,these people need "treatment",,,,imagine if all wasdifferent.and the federal monster had become twisted in a differentway,,and we were locking up these habitual authoritarian offendersby the thousands,,and we were just now getting to the point werewe were starting to "treat" these delusional authoritarian offenders.......this is obviously an asbstract analogy,,but one can view theseobsessive,mentally disturbed antis,as people who have a bad habit,or illness,,,,kinda like an addiction to being an authoritarian controlfreak....................this is indeed,,a strange ramble,,,,and the "mentallyill" excuse,is quite rare when compared to the lust for power/money/success syndrome,,,which is far more addicting than any,,Iguess we shouldnt hate these anti bastards,,,we should realize that theyneed "treatment",,,,and under prop 3666,we could stop the inhumaneimprisonment of all these power abusers,,,,,,,,treatment instead of jail,,,and we could have them report in to our courts afterwe administered our coerced treatment,to make sure that they havenot been abusing the power and money,,,with any luck,we could concoctsome bodily fluid,or excretion test ,that would be randomly admisteredto these offenders,to make sure they have not been getting high on abusingpower and hoarding money...........but money and power abusers,are thehardest offenders to treat,or cure...."Antis seem to assume everyone is a potential or closet child abuser. Hence their dogmatic mantra they use in rationalizing their DrugWar, shrieked over again: "It's for the chil-drun! It's for the chil-drun!”,,The scariest thing,,is that the very people who are obsessed with suspectingpeople of "closet" abuses,,like many cops are naturally trained to be,and theyget this nasty attitude thinking that most people are guilty of something,(whichthey in fact are),,but it's only natural for people in positions of authorityand control,to become infected with this 'holier than thou' neurosis.....thesepeople are the ones that most often have really ugly problems deep withintheir own worlds,,,,and  like you said;"This pathology is exercised within the bounds of society. "quite frightening........indeedI'm spaced,,,,,,,,and I enjoy it...dddd
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on August 14, 2001 at 18:28:07 PT:
And for those who still need convincing
I offer the following:The Twisted Badge a good look at what's being done to you...with your money.
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on August 14, 2001 at 18:17:34 PT:
Ugh! Me not like! Me control!
Living proof the Neanderthals did not die out after all; we just heard from one:""We know it's out there," said federal Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Will Glaspy. "We're looking at it to see if it needs to be controlled."The last three words say it all about the mindset of antis.My pet theory about this is that some-but-not-all antis come from authoritarian households whose child upbringing practices bordered upon physical and emotional abuse. Said treatment at an early age caused the development of various mental pathologies, all of which center around the lack of control of their environment...and the desperate need to acquire that control to have a sense of physical security which they never had while growing up.So they literally have to control all behavior in a given area surrounding them physically, and by joining a police department, over society as a whole by projection and inference.As the old saying goes, a thief will suspect you of theft, and a liar of they have both had intimate experience at their various personality twists and assume everyone does...because they do. So, unconsciously, many antis act out in society what they wished they could have done to those who tormented and lorded it over them.Even worse, were you to peek into many an anti household (and my neighbors at one time were cops, so this is not theorizing here, but the observations of an academically trained sociologist) the very same kind of behavior patterns can often be observed. Behavior patterns indicative of abuse. Verbal intimidation with the implied threat of force at the slightest intimation of resistance. "Grilling" one's own family members over trivial matters. Suspicion of their motives. Hair-trigger tempers resulting in bruises or worse. In short, many antis are themselves the very thing they did not want to become...and jumped on the DrugWar 'crusade' bandwagon to prevent from happening to others.They become abusers. But not merely of their own families and friends. That is tragic enough. But it's worse than that. This pathology is exercised within the bounds of society. Antis seem to assume everyone is a potential or closet child abuser. Hence their dogmatic mantra they use in rationalizing their DrugWar, shrieked over again: "It's for the chil-drun! It's for the chil-drun!”Yet antis have killed children. Alberto Sepulveda. Esequiel Hernandez. In order to 'save' them.I may not be a clinical psychologist, but this smacks of schizophrenia, to me. What about you?
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Comment #5 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 14, 2001 at 18:11:49 PT:
Everyone Should Care
The point is not whether Salvia is a good high. The points are: Should the government have the right to make this, or any plant illegal? Will more prohibition work, when it never has before, anytime, anywhere? Should we lose a possibly valuable research tool before we know anything about it? I say an emphatic "no" to each and every one.
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Comment #4 posted by Diqwhole on August 14, 2001 at 17:01:06 PT
If salvia is made illegal, would anyone care? The stuff sucks anyways. It makes you puke and the high is weak.
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Comment #3 posted by haze2k on August 14, 2001 at 16:52:42 PT:
Its not that great
Fair comment dddd. I have actually tried salvia many times and to be quite honest its not that good. It makes you purge which for me meens profuse sweating and for others can meen vomiting. Me and my friends test drove an ounce of it, we got through half the bag and decided that it wasn't worth the trouble as you have to burn it at such a high temperature to get an effect (we used a blowtorh :). Anyway the effcts last only about 15mins and its not exactly a social high. I cant see it being use at parties and I think its only future recreationally is trough some sort of extract or mixture. Why bother when skunk is so much better!PEACE
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on August 14, 2001 at 15:00:10 PT
Mum's the word
...Please,,let's minimize discussion of this as long as possible...even though ittakes an expert to recognize this strange member of the mint family,,,theleast amount of sensationalism,will hopefully defer the "scheduling",of yetanother God given herb...dddd
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Comment #1 posted by objective on August 14, 2001 at 14:52:03 PT:
Get the seeds now before its too late!
If you can, get the seeds now! Salvia has too much potential to make people realize how much they are actually worth for it to be legal. The government will not want you to have a substance which allows introspection to such a degree. Furthermore, there will soon be people abusing it as a party high in conjunction with other drugs as a result of the media's ability to create and reach irresponsible individuals. Just think, if kids can buy it, it will be used by someone who does not understand its potential, and someone will get hurt. The bad press will lead to immediate action by congress or some other government body, and this useful herb will be illegal. Get the seeds while you can, plant them, and make more. As long as someone has the ability to make more, our society will benefit from Salvia's self actualizing effects. Act quickly. This period of freedom will be brief.
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