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California becomes 11th state to restrict salvia

July 23, 2008 | 10:51 am

Salvia1 Minors in California will no longer be able to buy the herb salvia legally. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Tuesday that forbids the sale or distribution of salvia to minors. California is the eleventh state to apply some restrictions on use of the drug.

Salvia, or Salvia divinorum, is an herb found in Mexico that was traditionally used by Mazatec Indians for healing. Dried salvia leaves can be smoked or chewed to produce a high that ranges from a minute to a half hour. Users report hallucinating, an out-of-body feeling and losing control over their movements. The fact that the herb can be purchased by anyone at tobacco shops and on the Internet has concerned some law enforcement and health officials who say the substance is dangerous. The Drug Enforcement Administration is studying whether to designate salvia as a controlled substance.

The ban in California will take effect on Jan. 1, 2009. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia), who said this morning: "This bill had a tremendous amount of backing, and I'm grateful the governor recognized the wisdom of signing the bill."

Salvia remains legal for adults, although it's not popular and many one-time users say they disliked the effects. The herb is also the subject of research to determine if it has legitimate therapeutic uses for the treatment of substance-abuse disorders, pain or depression.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times