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Sales of hallucinogenic salvia no longer legal in Canada

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    OTTAWA - Canada is no longer a safe legal haven for salvia divinorum, the potent hallucinogenic plant that is sold openly online and in head shops across the country.

    Yet no one seems aware of the law and Health Canada is not enforcing it.

    Websites and shopkeepers are still advertising the plant as a perfectly legal head trip for Canadians eager to join the thousands of "pschonauts" who've posted videos of their psychedelic salvia voyages on YouTube.

    An estimated 1.6 per cent of Canadians aged 15 or older have already taken at least one ride on salvia, according to the 2009 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, the first to measure use of the plant.

    For those aged 15-24, the number rises to 7.3 per cent.

    Yet the federal government says products containing salvia divinorum and its active ingredient, salvinorin A, are considered natural health products and, as such, must be authorized by Health Canada before they can be sold.

    "It is illegal to sell NHPs (natural health products) in Canada unless they have been reviewed by Health Canada and authorized for sale," Christelle Legault, a spokesperson for Health Canada, told The Canadian Press in an email.

    "To date, Health Canada has not licensed for sale any drug or NHP which contains salvia as an ingredient."

    Legault added: "The illegal sale of products containing S. divinorum and/or salvinorin A may be subject to compliance and enforcement action under the Food and Drugs Act."

    This comes as news to head shops that are openly selling vials of salvia extract — for $20 to $80 per gram, depending on the potency — within spitting distance of Parliament Hill.

    One shopkeeper, who asked not to be identified, said he's had no notification that the plant, also known as diviner's sage and magic mint, can no longer be legally sold in Canada. He said he purchases the extract from a Canadian supplier.

    It's news to the police as well, who've complained in the past that their hands are tied when it comes to salvia, which has been known to produce some adverse reactions, including one case reported by Health Canada in 2006 in which a teenage boy became incoherent and suicidal and threatened to kill police officers.

    "Until the government makes it illegal, there's nothing we can do about it," said Robin Percival, communications strategist for drugs and organized crime at RCMP national headquarters.

    Informed that Health Canada says it is, in fact, illegal to sell salvia without authorization under the Natural Health Products Regulations, Percival said: "I don't think we have any jurisdiction there."

    Indeed, it would appear that enforcement of the regulations is entirely up to Health Canada's Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate.

    Asked why Health Canada has not stopped the illegal sale of salvia, department spokesman Gary Holub said complaints can be referred to the inspectorate by calling 1-800-267-9675.

    However, an open letter from the inspectorate to "all interested parties" on Aug. 27 suggests the inspectorate has not yet really begun in earnest to enforce the Natural Health Products Regulations.

    The letter recounts that the regulations came into force in 2004. Due to the large backlog of products that needed to be assessed for safety and quality before they could be licensed by Health Canada, suppliers were given until June 2008 to submit applications for licensing.

    It appears the process took longer than expected and only now is the inspectorate preparing to actually enforce the regulations.

    The letter advises that a new compliance and enforcement policy has now been adopted, which is to be fully implemented in February. In the meantime, suppliers are being given a six-month transition period during which those who've taken steps to become compliant and have made a submission for licensing will be "considered a lower priority for enforcement, unless a risk to health or additional non-compliances are identified."

    The chances of salvia ever receiving Health Canada's seal of approval seem slim, given the department's dim view of the product.

    "Canadians should not use products containing S. divinorum and/or salvinorin A because very little is known about the substance and its potential effects on the brain and/or body and its impact on physical and mental functions," said department spokesperson Legault.

    Indeed, she said Health Canada is currently reviewing available information about the plant to determine whether it should be included in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which regulates or bans drugs deemed to have a higher-than-average risk of abuse or addiction.

    Salvia is already banned or regulated in about a dozen countries including Australia, Japan, Germany and Belgium, and some dozen states in the U.S.

    By: Joan Bryden,
    The Canadian Press
    Posted: 18/10/2010



  1. cra$h
    Not really a bad article. Although Pschonaut's spelled wrong, but that's just an excuse to find some kind of flaw. Stats might be a little skewed, but I have no proof to prove this guy wrong.

    As for the topic, it's really ashame to see a drug like this be seen in a negative light. I support an age restriction on this drug since it's something kid's shouldn't be "playing" with, but a the same time maturity comes to people at different times, if at all.

    Swim uses this drug strictly spiritually and for his mental health. It has helped him dig to the roots of his problems and along with meditation has help him discover more about himself than any therapist could. And those who are just trying to get fucked up off this drug end up not liking it anyways. That's the beauty of it though, only the true psychonauts understand and enjoy the chaos salvia can put one through, and when you begin to understand it's far from chaotic
  2. Euphoric
    I wonder if health Canada can only regulate it if it is sold for human consumption. Would 'incense' or 'research use' bypass health Canada's control?
  3. Revolvingdoo
    It surely would imo, its always baffled my why such games are played. Surely if they just sell the product as is, without any specific use instructions and don't explicitly state its for human consumption, a law like this is immediately bypassed?
  4. Alfa
    The game starts at the moment authorities are seeing psychoactives as health products or medicines. Then headshops need to react and sell their products as 'not for consumption'. Its important to remember that the twisting starts with the government. The government is responsible for the 'not for consumption' approach, because it creates the need for it, by abusing the law.
  5. Euphoric
    The gentleman may have been exaggerating, but SWIM once went to a headshop in Toronto and asked the owner about hassle from the police. The shop sold piperazines and a smoking blend. He said that health Canada could basically confiscate anything they deemed hazardous and could take T-shirts if they declared them to be hazardous.
  6. veritas.socal
    while swim is in cali, he sympathizes(or is it empathizes...i think so) with canadians, as swim lived on the east coast, and got out of the joint right after it became illegal for that state.
    however, it sure isnt illegal in that state to grow/sell salvia for ornamental purposes, the law specifically said so. but extracts are a no-no. but seeing as how canada isnt the ideal climate for salvia growth, ........
  7. usually0
    Salvia is still being sold openly at convience stores. I've seen no change, guess they're not enforcing it. BTW, I live in Canada, Intario to be percise.
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