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Hello Senator Estes.

I'm writing to you about Senate Bill 1796 which would prohibit the sale of Salvia to Minors. I know that Salvia is a hot topic as of late, and that it is receiving strong media and political attention. Governmental bodies are now deciding how they will treat this substance. What I'd dearly love to see, this time around, in political and public discourse on the subject, is some perspective -- opinions formed based on facts instead of prejudices and misconceptions.

I'm a successful male of 32 living in Keller, working in Westlake, building a house (living in an apartment with my fianceé currently); I don't smoke tobacco, very rarely drink alcohol (I don't enjoy it), don't consume caffeine, and haven't used any illegal substance in nearly ten years. However, I became interested in Salvia last year as a safe, legal, entheogenic substance and decided to give it a try.

I've used Salvia about twelve times. I can report that the characterization of Salvia as inducing a "high" is quite far off the mark. The effects are very short-lived -- typically lasting around five minutes. I would imagine that in some ways Salvia use will be self-regulating, as I know that the majority of people who actually experience its effects find them unsettling. I have indeed had a "sitter" -- my fianceé -- for precautionary reasons most times I've used Salvia, although in retrospect my physical body has remained almost completely still during the experiences. Salvia's effects can resemble an amplified form of the hypnagogia that many people experience during the onset of sleep each night, and my body is generally quite still during this hypnagogia as well.

I've found my Salvia experiences to be captivating, invigorating, and fascinating from a standpoint of self-analysis and self-exploration. I can see how and why many people report unpleasant effects and decide not to repeat the usage, but I can also see how moderate, infrequent use for the right purpose can be deemed benign and certainly even beneficial. But it is not a cheap high.

During my use of Salvia, I've been a voracious consumer of Salvia-related information. I know all about dosage, setting, mindset, experiences and effects, etc. In short, I'm describing myself as a typical safe, responsible, mature, occasional user of a legal and basically harmless substance. As a result of my use of Salvia, I did not: become suicidal, lose my mind, jump out of a window, drive home from a bar inebriated (that would be symptomatic of the inexplicably legal and incredibly popular drug ETHANOL), turn to violence, become addicted, lose my hair or teeth, contract lung cancer, quit my career, vomit, experience a "crash," or any of the stereotypical negative drug side effects.

Obviously I don’t believe that Salvia should be made illegal. I am of the opinion that HB 2347 (proposing adding Salvia to Group 2 of the TCSA) goes way too far – mandating severe criminal penalties for any possession of Salvia by anyone is a knee-jerk reaction to something (anything) that simply has the ability to alter consciousness (however briefly). (On a side note, my stepmother participates in Transcendental Yoga, also a very consciousness-altering activity, will this soon come under fire by lawmakers as well? And psychologists use psychoanalysis and even hypnosis in their practices, achieving at great cost and effort some of the introspective effects a mind-altering substance may be able to provide – is there going to be a push to prevent these legal trips through the mind?) There is nothing harmful to anyone (quite the opposite, I could argue) nor immoral in any way about my use of Salvia – thus I suppose I don’t understand why the government feels it must put yet another substance (besides the ever-destructive and omni-present ethanol) on the “we will destroy your life through the power of the courts if you touch this” list. Criminalization of substances should be reserved for those that actually have a chance at being harmful or addictive. As I mentioned, I do not use illegal drugs (although like the majority of Americans I would favor the decriminalization of marijuana), but I intend to continue safely and responsibly using Salvia on an occasional basis, and if it becomes illegal in my state on September 1, 2007, I may make the decision to continue using it anyway.

This has all been background for my comments about your bill, Senate Bill 1796. Frankly, I applaud your introduction of this Bill! Salvia should NOT be used by minors. It is simply not something that a person with a still-developing brain can really benefit from. I was not mature enough to responsibly use Salvia (nor ethanol) at age 14 or 17. Fifteen years makes a world of difference. SB 1796 is responsible, reasonable legislation. Minors should not have access to Salvia, just like they don’t have legal access to tobacco or ethanol. It’s not discrimination, as minors generally become adults and then do have access to these things. We just put some things on a higher shelf than the young ones can reach while they’re young – for their OWN safety as well as everyone else’s.

The real reason I like SB 1796 more than HB 2347 is obvious, but even if HB 2347 hadn’t been introduced I’d applaud SB 1796 as a PREEMPTIVE STRIKE against much more drastic and nasty measures such as HB 2347. LSD had some extremely promising research behind it in the 50s and 60s – as a treatment for addiction, as a psychoanalysis aid, and even as a solemn and enlightening rite of passage. Then Leary encouraged the youth of the world to indulge in it casually and continually, and it spun out of control. The Federal Government quickly tightened the clamps and outlawed everything about LSD, and research since then has been extremely muted. Today, with Salvia, it’s the 14 through 17 year olds who are causing the most concern in the media and in government. Salvia is not a party drug. I favor age restrictions for Salvia purchase and possession for the same reason I favor graduated licensing for motorcycles (i.e., you ride for a year on a 500cc or smaller bike, another year on an 800cc or smaller bike, and finally after two years you have proven you can handle a larger or faster bike) – because it polices the activity/substance and regulates it enough to try and keep it legal for those who are older/more experienced and can be responsible. And by keeping it legal but restricted, a black market is avoided, which will actually make Salvia *less* accessible to minors than if it were illegal. In short, I don’t want these damned kids to ruin a good thing that some adults can handle, so let’s put Salvia on the higher shelves. But let’s not throw me in jail for responsible use.

Thank you for reading and I would certainly welcome any questions or comments you may have. Good luck!

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Hi L.P.,

I’m writing to you about the five-part series on Salvia that you completed several months ago, which was just brought to my attention. First, I’ll give a little background about myself. I’m a 32-year-old professional male living in Keller, successful in my career and happy in a healthy long-term relationship. I take no prescription drugs, nor do I use nicotine, nor do I consume alcohol or even caffeine, and I use no illegal drugs. I would wager that very few adults in the DFW area could say all of this. But I happen to know a bit about Salvia.

The idea, presented a couple of times throughout the series, that our fellow motorists might just possibly be under the influence of Salvia is absolutely preposterous. Truly. Anyone listening who knows the first or second thing about Salvia should find that vastly laughable… but also a little bit disturbing, since the ignorant target audience’s fears are being played upon, and in the service of vilifying something that most people know little about. The scourge of our roads, as always, is the legal drug ethanol (which I would argue has little redeeming entheogenic value), not the legal herb Salvia. People don’t go driving while under the five to ten minute Salvia influence, they go driving after ingesting the omnipresent (and relatively long-lasting) alcohol at sporting events and concerts, in bars, clubs and restaurants, and at parties.

Salvia is not a party drug. It is not something somebody looking for a “high” would take a second time. It is not necessarily a pleasant experience. I have serious doubts that anyone using Salvia could remotely begin to comprehend the operation of a motor vehicle. It is simply not done and hardly conceivable.

From Wikipedia: “Brett Chidester took his own life by climbing into a tent with a charcoal grill - he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In an essay found after his death, he wrote "Salvia allows us to give up our senses and wander in the interdimensional time and space,... Also, and this is probably hard for most to accept, our existence in general is pointless. Final point: Us earthly humans are nothing." Although being written earlier, Brett’s notes have subsequently been presented in media reports as if they were part of his suicide note. Brett's suicide note did not mention Salvia.”

From this dubious “evidence” has come a whole campaign against Salvia. Karen Peterson admits she had never heard of it before this. I doubt her subsequent “research” was unbiased. The typical political position on something like this is, “if it can make you high, it must be bad, and therefore NOBODY should be allowed to use it.” Or, put another way, “I may not know the first thing about what it is or what it does, but I know I’m going to use any and all coercive power available to me to make criminals out of anyone who uses it, however responsibly.” This is a typical ignorant, knee-jerk reaction.

The description of Salvia as a “five beer buzz” is also quite puzzling – possibly chosen to again try to paint it as a “highway menace.” I find nothing about it to remotely resemble the banal, unproductive, dulling sensation of ethanol ingestion. I find much about it to recommend, however.

Another activity of mine is riding a sportbike. I have years of experience. I don’t ride the fastest, meanest machine. I wear full gear including armored leather or textile jacket and pants, leather gloves, riding boots, and a full face helmet. I don’t ride in difficult situations. I don’t engage in idiotic stunts or endanger any other human being’s life unnecessarily. I don’t race. I’ve undergone training. I never ride under any type of intoxication. I maintain my motorcycle impeccably. I don’t ride with other riders who don’t respect these parameters themselves. IN SHORT, I RIDE RESPONSIBLY. Certainly, there are riders out there who don’t ride safely and can definitely endanger themselves or even others. What does this mean? That all sportbikes should be made illegal? That MY ability to partake of my hobby responsibly should be stripped away because of somebody else’s problem coping with it? No.

Salvia must be used RESPONSIBLY. For anyone considering using it, I would recommend spending the necessary time understanding the plant. Understand what “set and setting” actually means to YOU. Salvia is most definitely NOT for everyone. It should be used initially in a quiet, dimly lit, comfortable room, with one very trusted but very quiet sitter. It should only be used when one is open to the experience, when one is ready to meet it with an open mind and take in all that it can impart. Please allow that responsible Salvia use can be a very beneficial, enlightening, invigorating experience.

Baseless fear mongering and knee-jerk, thinly veiled calls for Salvia prohibition are neither productive nor enlightened. I found the five-part series to be distressingly biased. It was food for the same old agenda. It was bubblegum for the dogmatic anti-drug masses – the beer-chugging men and wine-swilling soccer moms of the metroplex. How refreshing it would be to hear a balanced, educated, and EDUCATIONAL perspective on something like Salvia from a major news and opinion outlet such as KRLD.

Thank you for reading and be well.