Health Canada Proposes Ban on Hallucinogen Salvia

The federal government is proposing to ground “pyschonauts” from taking any more psychedelic trips on salvia divinorum.

Health Canada has posted notice of its intention to ban the potent hallucinogenic herb and its active ingredient, salvinorin A.

It is proposing to add both to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, making it illegal to produce, possess, traffic, import or export the substances.

The notice, posted Feb. 4 on the Canada Gazette, gives stakeholders 30 days in which to comment.

Currently, salvia –also known as magic mint and diviner’s sage — is considered a natural health product. As such, it is supposedly illegal to sell it without authorization from Health Canada.

Health Canada has given no such authorization but the agency appears to have done little to enforce its regulations.

Salvia is readily available at head shops across the country and through the Internet, touted as a perfectly legal hallucinogen. As recently as last fall, head shops within a stone’s throw of Parliament Hill were openly selling vials of salvia extract for $20 to $80 per gram, depending on the potency.

Users of salvia have sometimes referred to themselves as psychonauts on YouTube videos of their trips

Police have long complained they’re powerless to halt the sale of salvia, which has been known to produce some adverse reactions, including one case reported by Health Canada in 2006 in which an incoherent, suicidal teenage boy threatened to kill police officers. Police have no jurisdiction to enforce natural health product regulations.

Adding salvia divinorum and salvinorin A to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would finally “enable law enforcement agencies to take action against suspected illegal activities involving these substances,” Health Canada says in the notice.

It adds that salvia has been “reported to be one of the most prevalent herbal products used as an alternative to illicit drugs.”

The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey in 2009 found 7.3 per cent of youths aged 15-24 reported having used salvia at least once.

Because the effects of salvia are similar to those of LSD and other controlled hallucinogenic drugs, “Health Canada is concerned that the ready availability and use of S. divinorum poses a risk to the health and safety of Canadians, particularly youth,” the notice says.

Other countries, including Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden, have already regulated or banned salvia, as have some dozen states in the U.S.

– Article from CTV News.


DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

CONTROLLED DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES ACT

Notice to interested parties — Proposal regarding the addition of Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A to Schedule III to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

This notice provides interested stakeholders with the opportunity to provide comments on Health Canada’s proposal to add the plant Salvia divinorum (S. divinorum) and its main active ingredient salvinorin A to Schedule III to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Stakeholders may also identify themselves for inclusion in any future consultation.

The plant S. divinorum is a species of sage belonging to the mint family. Its leaves are generally chewed or smoked to obtain psychotropic effects. While uncertainty remains surrounding the health risks of S. divinorum, known effects are reported to be short-acting in nature and include hallucinations, dysphoria, out-of-body experiences, unconsciousness and short-term memory loss. The effects, which vary from person to person, are also often described as unpleasant. Neither S. divinorum nor salvinorin A are currently included in any of the schedules to the CDSA.

Recently there have been reports suggesting that Canadian teens and young adults are using S. divinorum for its ability to produce hallucinations. S. divinorum is widely touted as a “legal” hallucinogen on the Internet, and has also been reported to be one of the most prevalent herbal products used as an alternative to illicit drugs. (see footnote 1) Results from the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS) reveal that, in 2009, 1.6% of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported having used S. divinorum at least once in their lifetime, with a much higher rate of use (7.3%) in youth aged 15–24 years. The results from the Canadian 2008–2009 Youth Smoking Survey also show that 5% of 15-year-olds have used S. divinorum in the past year. Moreover, the 2009 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) indicated that 5.4% of Ontario students in grades 7–12 reported ever using S. divinorum and 4.4% of these students reported using this substance in the past year. Because its psychoactive effects resemble those of other substances included in Schedule III to the CDSA such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, Health Canada is concerned that the ready availability and use of S. divinorum poses a risk to the health and safety of Canadians, particularly youth.

While S. divinorum and salvinorin A are not currently included in any of the United Nations drug control conventions, a number of countries have chosen to regulate one or both as controlled substances. Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Sweden have all placed controls on the import and/or sale of S. divinorum and/or salvinorin A. Some American states have also implemented laws restricting their use, sale and/or distribution.

Including these substances within Schedule III to the CDSA would prohibit possession, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importation, exportation, possession for the purpose of exportation, and production (or cultivation). The scheduling of S. divinorum and salvinorin A under the CDSA will also enable law enforcement agencies to take action against suspected illegal activities involving these substances.

As this action is not intended to interfere with the use and availability of S. divinorum and/or salvinorin A for legitimate medical, scientific or industrial purposes, Health Canada is seeking information from stakeholders on whether there are any such uses in Canada. Information received in response to this notice will be instrumental in determining appropriate regulation under the CDSA.

The publication of this notice begins a 30-day comment period. There will be additional opportunities to provide comments as the federal regulatory process progresses.

If you are interested in this process or have comments on this proposal, please contact Stephanie Chandler, Regulatory Policy Division, Office of Controlled Substances, Address Locator: 3503D, 123 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 1B9, by fax at 613-946-4224 or by email at [email protected].

Go to this notice at The Canada Gazette.

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