First Posted: 8/11/2009
Mount Airy police are thankful the state of North Carolina has acted to ban recreational use of a substance with hallucinogenic properties, but concerned that it might still be used here.
The N.C. House of Representatives gave final approval last week to the prohibition involving Salvia divinorum, a herb that is similar to mint.
Recreational use of the herb is increasing across the nation, and a Mount Airy detective believes it could take the same path as other substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine in moving from the West to East Coast.
I have been following that, Tim Hodges, whose career as a detective with the Mount Airy Police Department has involved drug investigations, said of the infiltration of Salvia divinorum. Hodges added Tuesday that he has made a point of learning about the herb through television documentaries and other sources because of its possible implications locally.
It looks a lot like weed, Hodges said in describing the substance as being similar to marijuana. But, he said, It has worse effects than weed.
While the herbal high associated with Salvia divinorum can involve hallucinogenic effects, it also is highly depressant.
According to what Ive seen on TV, in other states out West there have been several deaths where a person was coming down and they got so depressed, Hodges said. One high-profile case nationally centered on a 17-year-old student in Delaware who committed suicide after using Salvia divinorum.
Various studies have produced no consensus regarding the long-term effects surrounding recreational use of the plant that is native to Mexico.
Ive never run across it (in Mount Airy), Hodges said. It looks so much like weed, you wouldnt really know what you were looking at.
The herb is readily available in stores in the western U.S., according to the detective. It can be chewed or smoked in order to produce a high, with the effects sometimes lasting only a few minutes, based on information from another source consulted.
Last week, the N.C. House of Representatives followed the lead of 13 other states in voting to regulate Salvia divinorum. The bill that subsequently went to Gov. Bev Perdue for her signature permits the possession of the herb in gardens and for landscaping purposes.
The bill makes illicit possession of Salvia divinorum an infraction, or minor crime. A third offense would constitute a misdemeanor.
Although local police havent encountered Salvia divinorum yet, Hodges suggests it might be only a matter of time until that happens.
The (drug) dealers, sellers and distributors, they are always looking for something to make a dime on, he said.
If it can alter the physical and mental capacity of people, someone is going to try to sell it and make money on it.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.