Salvia divinorum is a herb indigenous to the southern region of Mexico, Oaxaca. The Mazatec have long been using Salvia for recreational and divine purposes.
Other medicinal benefits, for which the natives use this hallucinogenic plant, are reducing inflammation and pain. Salvinorin A (S.A.) is the most active constituent of Salvia, which binds to kappa opioid receptors and has allosteric modulation for cannabinoid 1 receptors.
This fast-acting “legal high” has conventionally been consumed by merely chewing the leaves; however, at present, users smoke the dried leaves of Salvia. Its hallucinogenic effects are often compared with those of LSD and marijuana.
The pharmacological effects of Salvinorin A mimic the same pattern as that of other hallucinogens regulated under controlled drugs and substances act (CDSA). Salvia attained the moniker “legal high” since it is not yet deemed illegal by the authorities.
Despite their non-addictive nature and no life-threatening attributes, Salvia and salvinorin A are banned in many countries and states. The legal status of Salvia is still under debate since it potently changes the level of consciousness.
Regulation Of Salvia
Food and Drug Administration do not regulate the status of Salvia; neither does any FDA approved drug contains Salvinorin A or Salvia Divinorum in it. However, the United States’ drug enforcement administration has put Salvia in the category of drug of concern.
According to DEA, the drugs of concern are those drugs that possess a risk of potential abuse and are not yet regulated by controlled substances act.
Salvinorin A is not classified under controlled substances because it has a unique structure than other drugs of abuse.
Legal Status of Salvia In The USA
An attempt to put a federal ban on Salvia Divinorum was made when a democrat of California Joe Baca presented a bill in United States Congress in late 2002 proposing that Salvia Divinorum and Salvinorin A should be included in schedule 1 of the control drugs and substances act.
The bill after being presented before many committees failed to be accepted on time and eventually dissolved by the end of 2002 with the dissolution of the 107th congress.
However, individual states have suggested their own legislations. Many states have passed bills to outlaw Salvia Divinorum or/and Salvinorin A, whereas in some states it is still legal to use the plant and its active ingredient. A detailed state-wise legality description is provided below.
After several efforts to make Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A illegal in the state, the Senate voted for House Bill 697 on 22nd April 2010.
HB697 was proposed on 9th March 2010 by Representatives James Gordon et al. the bill suggested to deem Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A illegal to possess.
Gene Therriault introduced three bills SB313, SB38 and SB52 to the Alaska state legislature from 2006 to 2009 in an effort to include salvia and salvinorin A (except SB313) in schedule 2 of Alaska’s list of controlled substances. All the bills died, keeping salvia legal throughout Alaska.
Representative Eric Meyer submitted two House Bills HB2520 and HB2687 in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
If passed, it would be considered as a Class 2 misdemeanor to sell Salvia divinorum or salvinorin A to someone less than 21 years of age. Both the bills died. Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A are still legal in Arizona State.
Arkansas outlawed Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A on 28th March 2011, declaring it a
Schedule I controlled substance under senate bill 423.
In California, it is legal to possess salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A if you are above 18. Assembly Bill 259, proposed by an Assemblymember Anthony Adams, emphasized on making Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A a schedule 1 controlled substance.
The bill was later amended in January 2008, making it illegal to sell Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A to someone aged less than 18. The revised version was passed on 2nd July 2008 and went into effect on 1st January 2009.
Colorado state Senate approved a bill 11-134 on 1st July 2011, deeming salvia and salvinorin A as controlled substances. Any violation would be considered as class 2 misdemeanors.
The house and senate passed a senate bill 1098, and salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A were declared controlled substances in July 2011.
Senator Karen Peterson introduced senate bill 259 on 16th March 2006. The bill was presented before the Delaware state legislature. SB259 passed on 2nd may, 2006 making Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A “Schedule I controlled substances.”
It is illegal to possess salvia in Florida.
On 3rd March, Representative Mary Brandenburg introduced house bill 1363 to the Florida state legislature. It sought to make salvinorin A and Salvia Divinorum, Schedule 1 substance in the state.
Two similar bills SB340 and SB1612 were presented to the state senate on 4th March 2008, which were merged and later replaced by HB1363.
Outside landscaping, aesthetic, and decorative purposes, it is illegal to possess salvia and salvinorin A in Georgia. Representative John Lunsford and Tom Weldon proposed house bill 1021 to the Georgian state legislature, on 28th January 2010.
The bill classifies salvinorin A (and Salvia Divinorum, supposedly) as a “dangerous drug,” and suggested the prohibition of its sale and possession. The bill was passed on 1st July 2010.
A house bill 2745 came into effect on 19th May 2010. This bill proposed to include salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A as schedule 1 controlled substances.
Representative Dennis M. Reboletti presented the house bill 0457 on 29th January 2007. Senator John Millner, in the later month, proposed this exact bill as senate bill 0226.
Both of the bills suggested salvia Divinorum be added to the schedule 1 substance list. They got passed in March 2007 in the senate.
House Bill 1102 was introduced to the state legislature in 2011. It came into effect on 1st July 2011. According to the bill, it is illegal to possess, deal in, sell, or manufacture Salvia Divinorum.
According to senate file 510, which was introduced on 21st March 2011, Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A are declared schedule 1 controlled substances. Governor Terry Branstad signed it into law on 29th July 2011.
Kansas state legislature was presented a House bill 2650 on 22nd January 2008, by Representative Peggy Mast. The bill suggested putting Salvia Divinorum in the schedule 1 control list.
The senate judiciary committee proposed similar legislation (SB481) on 28th January 2008. The bill was passed on 24th April 2008, making salvia Divinorum illegal in the Kansas state.
After the death of HB228 in the senate judiciary committee, efforts were made for its revival, and House bill 265 was presented on 24th January 2010 by Will Coursey and other representatives.
The bill was passed in April 2010, declaring the manufacture, possession, selling, and cultivation of Salvia Divinorum, a punishable crime.
Representative Michael G. Strain on 25th February introduced house bill 20 to the state legislature.
The bill emphasized that the possession, manufacturing, and distribution of Salvia Divinorum should be deemed illegal for human consumption. Thirty-six other hallucinogenic plants and fungi were also mentioned in the proposed list.
Salvia is legal in Louisiana State but not for human consumption, and hard labor is sentenced if someone violates the rule under Act Number 159, which went into effect on 15th August 2005.
An amendment was made to the legislative document 66 (HP 66) proposed by Representative Christopher Barstow. The amended bill was signed into law on 15th May 2007 and came into effect on 20t September 2007.
The law made it legal to purchase and use Salvia Divinorum or salvinorin A for 18 years old and above.
House bill 145 was proposed by Delegate James Mathias et al., on 17th February 2010. The bill was signed into law on 4th May 2010 and went into effect on 1st June 2010.
The house bill 1145 suggested prohibiting the sales of Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A to individuals under the age of 21 years.
A house bill 4434 was presented to the Massachusetts state legislature by representative Viriato deMacedo and Daniel Webster on 16th May 2007.
The bill suggested putting Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A into Class C controlled substances. However, the bill did not pass. Salvia is still legally sold and used in Massachusetts.
Representative rick jones presented house bill HB6038 to the state legislature on16th April 2010. He suggested putting Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in schedule 1 control substances of that state. The bill was passed in June 2010 and came into effect on 1st October 2010.
After several efforts to ban salvia, on 15th February, house bill 2975 was presented before the senate by representative Lanning and other members. Another accompanying bill SB2773 was proposed by Senators Ingebrigtsen and Rosen later that month.
The bill emphasized on outlawing Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A, considering any violation as a gross misdemeanor. The bill was passed and came into effect on 1st august 2010.
Senator Hob Bryan submitted Senate bill 2456 to the Mississippi state legislature on 29th January 2008. The bill was passed and went into effect on 1st July 2008.
According to the law in action, salvia Divinorum belongs to schedule 1 substances and thus is illegal to use and possess. The bill did not mention salvinorin A in its text.
Representative Rachel L. Bringer on 5th January 2005 presented house bill 165 to the state legislature. The bill proposed that salvia Divinorum should be added to the state’s control substances list.
However, it surprisingly did not mention salvinorin A. Representative Scott A. Lipke proposed another house bill 633 on 23rd February 2005.
This bill corrected the former bill and suggested putting salvinorin A in Schedule 1 control substances of the state along with 12 other materials. HB633 was passed successfully banning Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in Missouri state.
According to the legislative bill, 123 salvias Divinorum should be added to schedule 1 controlled substance of the state. Senator Russ Karpisek proposed this bill along with other senate members on 9th January 2009. The law went into effect on September 2009.
- New Jersey
Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A are currently legal in New Jersey. However, an assembly bill 1323 was proposed in January 2008 by Assemblywoman Sandra Love to the state. This bill suggests including salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in Schedule 1 controlled substances.
- New Mexico
Several attempts to ban salvia Divinorum were made and got died before the presentation of SB127. Senator Sue Wilson Beffort proposed this senate bill 127 on 27th January 2014.
Like all other previously died bills, this bill, too, suggested putting Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in schedule 1 controlled substances of New Mexico. This bill died, too, keeping salvia legal in the state.
- New York
Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A are legal in New York. You can sell, purchase, and possess it. Numerous bills have been presented before legislation to declare salvia illegal and put it in schedule 1 controlled substance list of the state. None of them passed.
- North Carolina
It is legal to possess salvia in North Carolina, but only for landscaping, research, aesthetic, and decorative purposes under Senate Bill 138. This bill was presented before the North Carolina state legislature on 11th February 2009 by Senator William Purcell et al.
At first, the bill sought to include salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in schedule 1 control substance list of the state. The law went into effect on 1st December 2009.
- North Dakota
Senate bill 2317 was proposed on 15th January before the North Dakota state legislation by Senator Dave Oehlke et al.
The bill emphasized putting Salvia Divinorum in schedule 1 control substance list of the state. Salvinorin A was not mentioned in the bill initially but added later. The bill was passed, and new law went into effect on 1st August 2007.
Salvia divinorum was made illegal in Ohio under house bill HB215, presented by Representative Thom Collier.
The bill was proposed to the Ohio state legislature on 9th May 2007, stressing on including salvia Divinorum in schedule 1 controlled substances of the state.
Salvinorin A was later added to the proposed bill. The bill was passed in April 2018 and came into action on 7th April 2009.
It is illegal to possess, sell, and purchase salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in Oklahoma and could result in 10 years imprisonment. Two bills were passed in May 2006 (HB2485) and June 2008 (HB3148).
The former one put it under synthetic controlled substance while the later sought more intense ban and included it in schedule 1 controlled substances of the state.
Oregon state legislature has been presented with three bills in total from the year 2003 to 2007, namely HB3485, SB592, and HB2492.
The first two bills sought to criminalize Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A in the state, while the third one proposed putting salvia in schedule 1 controlled substances list of the state. All the bills died, keeping salvia legal in Oregon.
Many efforts were made to ban salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in Pennsylvania. All of the proposed bills died either in the house or in the committee.
However, Senator Elder Vogel, in April 2011, presented senate bill 1006 before the state’s legislature.
The bill emphasized on inclusion of Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A into the state’s list of schedule 1 controlled substances. The bill was passed and came into action on 22nd august 2011.
- South Carolina
It is legal to possess, sell, and purchase salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in South Carolina.
A house bill 4687, however, was proposed before the South Carolina legislature by representative Chip Huggins, but it died even after being passed in April 2008.
- South Dakota
Representative Charles Turbiville et al., proposed House bill 1090 on 20th January 2009 to the state legislature. The bill was passed in March 2009 with certain amendments, making the possession of salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A, a criminal offense.
On 13th April 2006, a senate bill SB3247 was passed in the senate. The bill sought to make it a class A misdemeanor to produce, manufacture, distribute or possess salvinorin A. however, maintaining Salvia Divinorum for decoration would not be considered a criminal offense. Representative Park M. Strader et al. proposed this bill.
House bill 124 was presented before the Texas state legislature in 2013, by Representatives Anderson, Stephenson, Price, and Flynn.
The bill emphasized the enlistment of Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A in Penalty Group 3. The bill got passed on June 14th, 2013, making salvia illegal in the state.
Representative paul ray has tried several times to get salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A banned in Utah, but every time the bill dies.
He had proposed three bills, including HB190 (2007), HB260 (2008), and HB277 (2009), for three consecutive years. He stressed on declaring Salvia Divinorum and salvinorin A as schedule 1 controlled substances.
Delegate John M. O’Bannon, III, proposed HB2844 before Virginia state legislature on 10th January 2007, where he insisted on putting salvinorin A in the list of schedule 1 controlled substances without mentioning Salvia Divinorum.
However, in 2008, he renewed the bill and again presented it as HB21, where he proposed both the plant and its active ingredient to be added in schedule 1 substance list of the state. The bill was passed in February 2008.
An assembly bill 186 was introduced by representative Cullen et al., on 2nd April 2009. This bill was passed on 3rd March 2010.
According to this bill, manufacturing, possession, or delivering of salvinorin A is prohibited for human consumption.
Whereas, an FDA recognized the form of salvinorin A can be manufactured. Salvinorin A should not be sold to minors, and any violation could result in hefty penalties.
In January 2011, house bill 62 was introduced proposing to add Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A in schedule 1 controlled substances’ list. The bill was passed and came into action on 1st July 2011.
Why Salvia Remains In A Legal Grey Area
The psychedelic Salvia Divinorum remains in a legal grey area since it is discovered. Some of the experts emphasize on its legalization to promote the ongoing research over its possible therapeutic effects.
A study performed in March 2019 proves the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of Salvinorin A.
However, its use in dementia and Alzheimer’s is being studied. Researchers further stress on its controlled distribution and regulated consumption to prevent salvia abuse.
On the other hand, authorities are concerned about the consciousness-altering properties of Salvia. Salvinorin A binds to kappa opioid receptors in the brain, alters the neurological signaling, and disrupts dopamine levels too.
Salvinorin A is proved to be the most potent hallucinogen occurring naturally, says the Centre of Substance Abuse Research.
Potential Harms Associated With Salvia Consumption
Severe side-effects have been associated with salvia consumption. Visual and physical impairment, an acute sensation of disengagement from reality, uncontrolled continuous laughter, hallucinations, and optical distortion, Synthesia (when sensation in one sensory organ stimulates other sensory organs), dizziness, Dysphoria, disorientation are the most common adverse effects of salvia consumption.
Moreover, Spatio-temporal dislocation can also occur, and the user may find himself in a different time and space.
Conditions like this can be extremely uncomfortable for a vulnerable individual and can cause psychotic disorders.
Owing to the above mentioned neurological effects, one must not be allowed to perform operative functions like driving, etc. after taking Salvia.
Pre-employment Drug Testing Procedures
Pre-employment drug testing is usually done before applying for designations that have an impact on public health and safety, involving transportation, driving, hospitals, railway, airlines, and ships, etc.
Drug testing on the workplace, however, is performed with a broader thought of alleviating drug abuse and poor productivity during work.
Although, when we talk about salvia Divinorum’s drug testing, one must know that the equipment required for its testing is such costly that usually, no organization pays for it unless a grave concern arises, which generally is not the case with Salvia.
Furthermore, even if the testing is done, Salvia is rarely detected through the test panel kits that are currently available.
The Overall Prevalence Rate Of Salvia
In the past few decades, the use of natural psychoactive drugs (NPD), including Salvia Divinorum, has dramatically increased.
Researches have shown that there are approximately 30 million people in the U.S. alone, who abuse psychedelic drugs. Since20% of individuals aged 21-34 are actively involved in psychedelic drug abuse.
A recent online survey (2019) revealed that natural psychoactive drugs are consumed the most in the United States which is 19% of the total global usage. Salvia Divinorum appears to be the third most consumed psychedelic in that survey.
However, according to The National Institute for Drug Abuse in Teens Salvia’s popularity is dropping since last year, and it is no longer popular among teens.
Deaths Reported Due To Salvia Consumption
Even though salvia utilization may affect learning and understanding abilities, it does not pose a serious life threat to its users. At present, there are no such deaths reported by the use of Salvia Divinorum.
However, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, vulnerable individuals reportedly experienced prolong psychosis after salvia usage, and one case of suicide has shown up.
How Can Salvia Keep Its Legal Status?
Salvia Divinorum is a potent psychedelic, commonly used as a recreational drug. Several pieces of research are being done to prove its medicinal efficacy. However, researchers advise further intensive investigations to uncover the incredible therapeutic effects of Salvia and Salvinorin A.
Mindful of the positive impacts Salvia’s legalization could bring, one must acknowledge the acute abusive potential Salvia possesses. Easy access for minors and young adults would make it even difficult to control Salvia’s abuse.
Moreover, the consciousness-altering effects of Salvinorin A would disrupt the neuronal signaling in minors which may result in irreversible damage. The attribute of Salvia to modify neuronal signaling puts massive responsibility on authorities to regulate it wisely.
The legality of Salvia is only possible with well-regulated rules and user guidelines. Growing and selling it only for research purposes would keep the youth safe from salvia abuse and promote researches likewise.