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Alabama Legislators: This Salvia is No Pretty Flower

Montgomery, AL – Two Alabama legislators are trying to ban a type of salvia. But they're not trying to rid Southern flower beds of the red and blue flowers popular in the region.

Senators Roger Bedford of Russellville and Hank Ewrin of Montevallo, have proposed bills that would classify salvia divinorum as an illegal drug with the same punishment as marijuana.

A California expert, Daniel Siebert, who studies the medicinal properties of plants, says the legislation goes too far. Siebert says salvia is a valuable medicinal herb that should be available to people.

Salvia divinorum is a sage-like plant that is related to the colorful flowers called salvia or red and blue sage.

Bedford's and Erwin's bills only cover the one type, salvia divinorum, which is usually smoked or eaten. It has hallucinogenic properties when used in large amounts and, because it is unregulated in most states, it is widely available on the Internet and in some shops.

Erwin says many parents have never heard of it, "but the kids know it."

Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said he first heard about it from teenagers in his rural county. He says it's become something of a fad. Rushing is encouraging the Legislature to act.

Erwin and Bedford said they haven't heard of many problems in Alabama, but they are trying to act before use becomes widespread.

Bedford's bill breezed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on an unanimous vote Wednesday and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate. Erwin's bill is awaiting action by the Judiciary Committee.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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