Today, this mind-altering member of the mint family is broadly available for lawful sale online and in head shops across the United States. Though older Americans typically have never heard of salvia, the psychoactive sage has become something of a phenomenon among this country’s thrill-seeking youth.
More than 5,000 YouTube videos — equal parts “Jackass” and “Up in Smoke” — document their journeys into rubber-legged incoherence. Yet these very images that have helped popularize salvia may also hasten its demise and undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses.
Pharmacologists who believe salvia could open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects. In state after state, however, including Texas, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. This year, Florida made possession or sale a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. California took a gentler approach by making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute to minors…