Herb May Heal, But is Blocked; Times Blames Stoned Kids

Salvia divinorum is a powerful herb that figures in hundreds of scholarly articles. It's also a medium for shamanistic exploration and getting fucked up.

In our prohibitionist culture, you can imagine how this would play out: scientists look to exploit the herb for treatment, and politicians look to exploit it for votes. Last year Sarah Viren at the Houston Chronicle documented the interest of pharmacologist Bryan L. Roth in applying salvia, as it's casually known, to "Alzheimer's, depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain and even AIDS or HIV." Viren also mentioned efforts by local Republican legislator Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson to ban it.

The New York Times is now on the story, and its angle is clear from the headline: "Hallucinogen’s Popularity May Thwart Medical Use." The article implies that the kids getting high off salvia are responsible for keeping researchers from making cures out of it.

"More than 5,000" goofy YouTube videos of salvia hijinks, the article says, "have helped popularize salvia" but "may also hasten its demise and undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses."

The evidence is that the salvia videos have spurred a backlash by legislators such as... Rep. Charles Anderson (his medical honorific omitted here), which presumably will hinder the effort of researchers such as... Bryan L. Roth, a truncated version of whose Chronicle list of conditions and diseases perhaps treatable with salvia also appears here.

To be fair, many more sources and citations are availed by the Times, including cases of suicides which the author admits have only "speculative" links to the drug. But though "many scientists," we are told, "worry that criminalization would encumber their research before it bears fruit," none of them explicitly blames stoned youngsters for the actions of lawmakers.

So why are the stoners the villains of the story? Maybe because, like the Gibby Haynes lookalike whose picture graces the article, drugged youth is a bigger draw than scientists or State Representatives. The story of government vs. science may sell a few wonkish books, but a story about kids on dope and the havoc they cause plays beautifully in the Times and elsewhere.

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