Though it’s legal for anyone to buy and sell Salvia divinorum – an organic substance St. Peters police are referring to as “chewable marijuana” – police, along with at least one store in the city, are trying to keep it out of the hands of minors.
Recently, several local teenagers approached officers and told them the substance was becoming popular among their peers, police said. Now, Police Chief Tom Bishop is urging city officials to pass an ordinance making it illegal to sell Salvia divinorum to anyone under the age of 18.
The substance – a perennial herb native to Oaxaca, Mexico and a member of the sage family – is sold in chewable, smokeable or liquid form. It causes hallucinations, similar to those induced by mescaline or “magic” mushrooms, according to information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
When chewed, there is a harsh taste, and it’s recommended the substance be held in the mouth for at least five minutes before swallowing. The effects can occur in 10 to 15 minutes.
Employees at Retro-Active, a store in Westfield Shoppingtown Mid Rivers, have been selling the substance, in the liquid and smokeable form, for about six months. In that time, “large amounts” of minors have tried to purchase it, said Melissa Grafeman, store manager. But employees check driver’s licenses of those customers and deny those under the age of 18.
It’s a policy the store established, even though they were not required to do so.
“It’s [Salvia divinorum] something that does cause a high, or whatever you want to call it, which we don’t believe they need to be doing,” Grafeman said about minors.
The product, which comes in different strengths, costs $19.99 per gram for the weaker version and $32.99 for the stronger, she said.
Salvia divinorum, or any of its active ingredients, is not listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act. Recently, however, U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, D-California, introduced a bill to add it to the list, said Sgt. Dave Kuppler, St. Peters police spokesman. And, the DEA marked it as “a drug or chemical under concern.”
Police know of at least two stores in St. Peters that sell Salvia divinorum, and they are on the hunt for more.
“There’s no telling how many others are doing it on the side,” Kuppler said.
Bishop recently told city officials he was working with the management of some stores, requesting they “no longer sell it.” He would not identify the businesses.
Some stores neighboring those selling the substance have contacted police. So have concerned parents, Kuppler said.
He said he does not know of any incidents occurring as a result of Salvia divinorum intake. But it’s still something police want to regulate as much as possible, he said.
“You have so many kids (in the area), and they find different ways to get high – to get that euphoria – and they basically turn to this to achieve that,” Kuppler said.
The Board of Aldermen could vote on the proposed ordinance to control the substance during its next meeting Jan. 9.
If passed, “it’s going to give us as much ability to control this as the law can allow us right now,” Kuppler said.
Reprinted with permission from St. Peters Journal