Salvia in California

In News, State News
Photo by William Camargo

In recent years, salvia, or Salvia divinorum, has gained recognition and raised curiosity among prospective users. Authorities are also compiling information on the hallucinogen, said University Police Detective Robert Botzheim.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website, salvia is native to “southern Mexico and Central and South America.” Its main ingredient, salvinorin A, activates “kappa opioid receptors in the brain,” altering the user’s sense of perception. These receptors are different than those activated by other opioids like heroin and morphine, according to the site.

This hallucinogen, which was first used by ancient Mazatecs in Mexico, can be chewed, drank as tea or smoked, which is the preferred method of salvia users, said the store manager of a local Fullerton smoke shop who requested not to be named.

Spencer Beshoff, 20, a business major, said he experimented with salvia in high school because he was curious and because it would not appear in the random drug tests administered by his school.

Botzheim said the reason Beshoff’s high school did not look for salvia use is because authorities were not as knowledgeable about it as they are today, and it’s not illegal.

“A couple years ago, there was very few police officers who were looking for this kind of drug,” said Botzheim. “And even now, it’s not illegalized, so there’s not a real push to look for it.”

Botzheim cautions students using the substance for recreational purposes because of its strength and previous cases where salvia has proved to be dangerous, as in cases he has heard where individuals stopped breathing.

Although salvia remains legal in California and no federal law prohibits its sale or use, 22 other U.S. states have made it illegal, Botzheim said.

Past legislation in California, such as AB 259, banned the sale of salvia to minors, according to the Official California Legislative Information website. The bill, which took effect Jan. 1, 2009, is the only salvia-related bill that has been approved in California.

Botzheim said in order to test for salvia, officers must specifically look for the substance. However, not all forensic units are set up to test for it and Cal State Fullerton is not planning on purchasing test kits anytime soon because it remains legal.

Botzheim also said there have not been any instances where CSUF’s University Police arrested student salvia users. However, there was one student six months ago who may have been under the influence of salvia, but no blood was drawn from the student, so it was not confirmed.

Despite the gradual increase in curiosity of salvia, smoke shops like Twilight Zone Smoke and Gift Shop do not have a constant demand for it because of its strength, according to the store manager.

“It’s usually a one-time drug, because when they smoke it, they’ll never try it again because the intense euphoria it gives, so it’s usually a one-timer,” said the store manager.

Nushin Alavi, 21, a psychology major, knows four peers who have smoked salvia, some of whom smoked only once because of their bad experience with it.

“They were curious as to how it felt—the effect of it,” said Alavi. “It’s a hallucinogen so they wanted to see what it’s like. Some of them did it more than once and some of them had a bad trip so they didn’t do it again.”

According to Beshoff, he only tried salvia twice because of how it made him feel.

“The second time I took a less version of it,” Beshoff said. “I don’t know how to describe it, and it kind of just made me feel, just kind of high, but not in a good way ‘cause I couldn’t really control my arms or anything. The first time, especially, I felt like I—I fell over my side and couldn’t move. It was kind of weird. Wasn’t very fun, I thought.”

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  • darp

    I’ve done it and it’s nothing to really rave about. It’s not euphoric, but more dissociative, or detached. My vision turned into slime and my personality was swept away with it but it wasn’t scary. My friend turned into an animal for 5 minutes and he was kind of scared.

    Intellectual curiosity, or mind expansion is probably the only way to appreciate the experience.

    In regards to the laws, they might as well make alcohol and cigarettes illegal too as they cause more deaths and pain for the families involved. Oh wait, money is at stake for those corporations.

  • Devin

    Salvia is a helluva drug. Like Quaaludes in the late 70’s, the trend will fade fast. Here’s a brand new article on Salvia you might like: http://www.backpagemagazine.com/2011/10/21/what-the-hell-is-this-drug-salvia/

  • Natalie

    It sounds somewhat like synthetic marijuana, but stronger and more of a hallucinogen. However, many users have reported unpleasant experiences with smoking incense, while some report not feeling much of anything. For more about this substance, check out: http://www.askthejudge.info/is-smoking-incense-like-k2-or-spice-legal/7125/

  • wakeup234

    First off, anyone who wants to try salvia should first educate themselves about it as it isn’t something you just take without preparation. Also, you have to use a torch lighter, not a crappy run of the mill lighter (I’d also recommend a large water pipe as well). And thirdly, we are not all children and a substance such as this serves itself to be entirely beneficial to mankind – if a kid is going to take it just to try to get high, well that kid is probably going to try anything to get high regardless so banning this substance won’t help that kid. People who are interested in trying this substance should have a sitters just in case the subject flails around too much which will not occur with an experienced user. Lastly, salvia divinorum is not an adultered substance made through a chemical process in a lab. Don’t be afraid of things you dont know or understand – research and learn, or simply forfeit your ability to make an informed opinion. Thank you.

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