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Another salvo in the 'War on Drugs'


Looks like salvia is the "new marijuana," and lawmakers in more than a dozen states are looking to put a lid on it. For now they're only after salvia divinorum which, when smoked or ingested, can take its user on a "trip" said to be as visionary as it is brief. As one might expect, the addled hordes have posted the details of their herbal expeditions here and there, and, incidentally, some really don't seem to turn out very well.

As it happens, there are scores of other salvia varieties grown in gardens worldwide -- mine included -- that excite only the neighborhood hummingbirds and honey bees. So, provided no one finds a way to scramble his brains with my "Lady in Red" or "May Night" salvias, maybe I'll be allowed to keep them around. My tongue is only partly planted in my cheek since, when taken in the context of the "War on Drugs," this wouldn't be the first time an innocuous plant was caught in the crossfire. If you ask me, the "War on Drugs" is more aptly described as a war on plants, and in the hopes of extinguishing marijuana use in the U.S., industrial-grade hemp has been killed by friendly fire.

Now before you mistake my support of the legalization of hemp as some secret soft spot for pot, don't bother. I don't have one. Industrial-grade hemp has no value as a recreational drug, but it does offer tremendous potential environmental benefits. For instance, the crop is notably weed- and pest-resistant, so farmers growing it wouldn't need to copiously spray herbicides and pesticides. And with its tough fibers and short time to maturity, hemp is especially useful for paper and textile manufacturing."Illegally Green: Environmental Costs of Hemp Prohibition," a study released by the Reason Foundation, sees things my way: "It seems likely that the United States cannot prohibit the crop indefinitely. . . . Social pressure and government mandates for lower dioxin production and greenhouse gas emissions, greater bio-based product procurement, and a number of other environmental regulations all seem to directly contradict the prohibition of this evidently useful and unique crop."