Vancouver, BC: The BC Civil Liberties Association is opposing Health Canada’s proposal to criminalize the herbal product Salvia Divinorum. Salvia is currently regulated under Natural Health Products Regulation and the BCCLA says that adding “Salvia” to Schedule III of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act would be highly counterproductive and harm the youth that Health Canada says they are hoping to protect.
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director: “There is very little evidence about the health effects of Salvia, and the typical mental effects – “slurred speech and awkward sentence structure”, “lack of physical coordination”, and “uncontrollable laughter” – bear a striking resemblance to the effects of alcohol. It is hard to understand how products like alcohol and tobacco, which can and do cause serious diseases and even death, are seen fit for regulation, while Health Canada proposes to criminalize a product which has similar short-term effects and virtually unknown long-term effects. The proposal to criminalize Salvia is evidently a response to a much-viewed Youtube video of Miley Cyrus. Instead of evidence-based policy-making, we are getting Policy By Hannah Montana.”
The BCCLA has long advocated that the non-medical use of drugs be seen as a health issue rather than a criminal law issue. The Association argues that the abject failure of prohibition is well-documented and that the harms of criminalization far exceed speculative benefits.
Vonn: “Health Canada says that it wants to protect young people, but we do not protect youth by sending them to jail. Criminalization does not eradicate the product, it merely consigns it to the black market which will prevent the product from being effectively researched and safety-tested. While criminalization might deter some youth from the health risks of salvia (if indeed any serious health effects are found), Canada’s experience with like-substances indicates that many people will continue to seek the product. The use of the criminal law in this circumstance creates social and personal damage far greater than it was designed to prevent. Research, education and regulation are the approaches needed to genuinely protect the health of all Canadians.”
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, 604-630-9753