TRIPPY DRUG LEGAL IN CANADA A hallucinogenic drug banned in Australia and listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as a drug or chemical of "concern" is freely available for sale in Vancouver. Renee Boje, owner of Urban Shaman on Hastings Street, sells salvia divinorum, a species of sage which belongs to the mint family, in the form of dried leaves, extract and plant cuttings. The plant is commonly used by Mazatecs in Mexico for curing rituals and divination. Boje says the leaves and extract are the most popular items sold at her store. "It's a fast-track way to get a spiritual experience," said Boje, who uses salvia. "Smoking it is short-acting, it's quick and they can think about the experience after." While the drug is illegal in Australia and under restrictions in other countries, Canadian law does not prohibit its sale. Nathalie Lalonde, a media relations officer at Health Canada, says salvia is not being monitored in Canada and is not listed as a controlled substance under the Drug and Controlled Substances Act. Monitoring includes studying information from WHO and the International Narcotics Control Board and from police and drug organizations. "Should evidence arise that suggests an abuse problem with significant risk to public health and safety, the department will investigate and take whatever action is appropriate to mitigate the risks," Lalonde said. Marc Emery, president of the B.C. Marijuana Party, doesn't see salvia getting banned in the future primarily because he believes its use is not widespread. "It shouldn't be banned because no one uses it much," said Emery. "It doesn't have a negative impact." Adding a drug to Health Canada's list of controlled substances would call for a regulatory change, a process which could last several months, said Lalonde. "Where a substance presents grave harm to the public, extraordinary measures may be taken to control a substance in a more timely manner by eliminating the consultation phase," she said. "Health Canada currently has no plans to add salvia divinorum to the list of substances controlled under the CDSA." Boje says it would be a shame if salvia is outlawed because she claims it provides people with the ability to connect with their divine selves. She remains hopeful it will remain legal because she believes the Canadian government is more open to people having autonomy over their minds and bodies. Effects of smoking salvia can vary, according to Emery, who conducted a test on 15 individuals by administering the extract to them. While the women in the group were "giggly," the men seemed scared and hyperventilated, with some dropping to the floor, he said. Boje says if salvia is taken the "traditional way" in a quiet, dark room the experience can be positive. "I had visions of beings that were made of light and they were dancing around me," she said. "I felt they were my spiritual family showing me love." However she cautions about not doing the drug alone but to have a friend or "sitter" present. Boje says there are no known side effects of the drug but describes it as hallucinogenic. Salvia is available at other stores in Vancouver. The Seed Co. on Hastings Street advertises its sale on a sandwich board on the street. Staff at the store declined to comment.