For years, college students have used the hallucinogenic herb for a cheap - and legal - thrill without attracting much attention. But with hundreds of online videos showing people smoking Salvia and dissolving into fits of laughter and hallucination, North Carolina is considering joining 14 other states that have outlawed it.
A bill proposed in the legislature last week would make Salvia a Schedule I drug, equivalent to heroin or LSD.
State Sen. Bill Purcell, a Laurinburg Democrat, said he has no evidence that the herb is being widely abused, but he is concerned about anecdotal reports of people who became violent or suicidal while using it.
"Methamphetamine got out of control before we did anything about that," said Purcell, a retired pediatrician. "I'm hoping we can do something sooner this time."
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A member of the mint family, Salvia was traditionally used in religious rituals by the Mazatecs Indians of Mexico. It first became popular in the United States in the mid-1990s under names such as Magic Mint or Purple Sticky and can be found in head shops in Raleigh and Chapel Hill for as cheap as $14.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration currently regards Salvia as a "drug of concern" and is studying it. In the past few years, states such as California, Florida and Virginia have banned it outright, while Louisiana and Tennessee have restricted its consumption.
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