Outlawed drug still legal in NZ
The Dominion Post | Friday, 01 August 2008
A potent hallucinogenic drug, banned in Australia and being progressively outlawed in the United States, will remain legal in New Zealand.
Salvia divinorum, a herb from the sage family that Mazatec Indians in Mexico have long used for spiritual and healing purposes, appears set to be regulated instead of banned.
Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said he would soon consider recommending salvia divinorum be regulated "in line with expert recommendations".
It would not be banned, he said. "Evidence shows it is a psychoactive drug that should be regulated."
The drug, bought in powder form and often chewed or smoked through a water pipe, has similar hallucinogenic qualities to magic mushrooms and lsd. Its effects are relatively short and can put users in a dream-like state, prompting visual and auditory hallucinations.
It has become more popular in New Zealand since the banning of BZP party pills this year. Its profile has also increased thanks to numerous YouTube videos that show teenagers laughing uncontrollably, falling over and unable to hold conversations.
In the US it has been banned or heavily regulated in about 20 states, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill last week that made it illegal to sell the drug to people under the age of 18. Australia banned salvia divinorum in 2002 and Italy made its sale and possession illegal in 2005.
Mr Anderton, who pushed through the BZP ban, said salvia divinorum was of "low risk and should not be classified like BZP at this time".