Don't leave public opinion out of public decisions.
Two weeks ago, the powerful hand of the law laid a smack down on one of the few remaining legal drugs being used throughout Wisconsin. Salvia divinorum, commonly confused with saliva, was effectively banned from being manufactured and distributed among the many citizens of Wisconsin.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the short-term hallucinogenic drug, salvia is a Mexican herb that was legal to those over the age of eighteen up until March 3, 2010. The drug is known to cause hallucinations that remain for a short period of time. They occur seconds after being smoked, licked or chewed. The lack of lengthy sensory stimulations produced by salvia have pushed it to become an afterthought substance among avid drug users and essentially makes it an unpopular and somewhat “non-existent” drug to the general public.
Despite salvia’s minor impact on society, state legislators, including former state Senators Sheldon Wasserman and David Cullen, have found its existence to be so troublesome that they have continually exerted efforts to ban the drug for the sake of “protecting our children.” Authoring the Assembly Bill 168, Wasserman and Cullen believe salvia to be a dangerous hallucinogen that “we cannot allow young people to be deceived into thinking [is] risk free because it is legal.” Gov. Jim Doyle concurred with Wasserman’s claims and ultimately decided to rid Wisconsin of the herb upon signing the bill outlawing the drug on March 3, making Wisconsin a fresh member of the 19 states now regulating it.
While the prohibition of salvia divinorum has been branded into legislation for the last two weeks, knowledge of its removal has failed to successfully spread to those familiar with the substance. Although local businesses now risk facing $10,000 fines if found violating the new legislation, many who have experimented with the trivial hallucinogen remain ignorant to its newfound illegality. The reason for this unawareness is the lack of public exposure to the bill. Time to debate the guts of the bill or submit a referendum was overlooked, for the taboo topic of legalizing any questionable substance remains a dark subject most sensible state lawmakers aim to avoid.
Although students attempt to make their voices heard through stoned State Street marches toward the Capitol once a year or by passionately carving “Legalize It” on the back of almost every chair in Bascom 165, decisions outlawing particular drugs continue to be made without public knowledge. Delivering proper and accurate information concerning the pros and cons of legalizing the use of certain substances remains unclear because most politicians tend to turn their shoulders on drug-related matters for fear of public disapproval. The ban on salvia throughout Wisconsin is yet another example of a successful push to ban a drug that ultimately only harms those who make the choice to use it.
Representation for those in favor of legalizing marijuana and other drugs is minimal, and the time has come for legislators and representatives to overcome their fears of rejection by particular demographics and start listening to constituents who have valid arguments surrounding big, bad drugs. The purpose of this article is not to debate the pros and cons surrounding the legalization of marijuana, but to highlight how important it is for politicians to start listening to their constituents about these issues. By imposing laws and regulations without public consent, state politicians like Gov. Doyle are essentially deciding what is best for us. Constituents should have a say in this.
Outlawing more and more drugs may have negative effects on those who use them safely and legally, which might make their opinions significant enough to deserve adequate representation. The lack of total publication of the new ban on salvia divinorum demonstrates that politicians are not taking those in favor of legal usage seriously.
Unfortunately, representatives continue to avoid subjects concerning the authorization of particular substances for fear of decreased approval ratings and pessimistic political reputations despite legitimate and valid arguments being expressed by the opposition. The banning of salvia throughout Wisconsin is yet another step backwards in the world of healthy drug debates. What’s next to go, Red Bull?
By Samantha Witthuhn
March 17, 2010