SALVIA, an hallucinogenic drug, which could make users black out and lose their memories, is available in Worksop's town centre – but it is totally LEGAL.
Salvia leaves and pre-rolled 'spliffs' are on sale in Body Alter, on Bridge Street, at a price of 5 for a five gram pack or two pounds each for a cigarette 'bifta'.
Bassetlaw MP John Mann – when alerted to the drugs by the Guardian – has labelled the leaves 'dangerous' and tabled an Early Day Motion in Westminster today to call for them to be banned.
Salvia, derived from the sage family of plants, contains the active ingredient salvinorin A, which yields the hallucinogenic effects. It is freely available on the internet, and can be smoked, chewed, or inhaled.
There are 30 minutes of after-effects which, in high doses, can cause memory loss and losing consciousness.
There are specific warnings over where and when to take the drug on the internet. Because Salvia divinorum can alter perception and behaviour, websites warn it must never be used in a public environment.
It is said that when the effects are intense, people often become immersed in a dream-like state. Sometimes people in this state will move around as if sleepwalking, and for this reason, users are advised to have a sober 'sitter' present when using strong doses – to make sure that users don't do anything dangerous. One site specifically says it is not a party drug.
Websites hail the leaves as the 'drug the government forgot to ban', while Australia have moved quickly to ban it. Denmark, Belgium, Italy, and South Korea are the only other countries that have set the wheels in motion in making salvinorin A illegal.
Spain prohibits the sale of Salvia divinorum, but not possession or use. In Finland, it is illegal to import Salvia divinorum without a relevant prescription from a doctor.
Instructions on the back of a 5 bag of Salvia say the leaf should be smoked in a pipe or 'bong' – a water pipe used for smoking.
The packet also states that smoking the leaf – nicknamed Mexican Mint or Horse Killer by users – in a joint would produce a 'mild relaxant' and that bonging the drug was 'a bit trippy'.
I visited Body Alter this week and was shown a cabinet of Salvia in its various forms, side by side with drugs paraphernalia such as pipes, bongs and Rizla papers.
I was told by the shop attendant that results were variable, but a more powerful salvia extract was being shipped next week.
John Mann called for the shop to remove the stocks and for the drug to be banned.
"I applaud the Worksop Guardian for bringing this to our attention. It's clearly something that needs exposing," he said.
"It's slipping through a gap in drugs legislation. These people who live in this airy fairy land (the websites) don't know what effect this is having on a town like Worksop.
"The shop should not be stocking it. They should be thinking more responsibly – it should be classed as a prescription drug."
"The Australians have clearly found a problem with it. There's obviously a risk in people taking it."
The leaves, purchased in Body Alter, are the Mazatec Golden leaf, which relates to the tribe of people in Mexico who first used the drug.
Legend has it that shaman used to chew the leaves slowly and the salvinorin would be absorbed directly into the body by the tissues in the mouth.
Worksop Police issued a warning to users of the drug: "We are not aware of any illegal activity taking place at Body Alter. However, we would not encourage anybody to use a substance that causes mood-altering effects," said Ch Insp Matthew McFarlane.
Patrick Kielty, who is the proprietor at Body Alter, condemned John Mann for effectively launching a vendetta against 'alternative-minded people'.
"We do sell Salvia, which is an alternative to smoking tobacco – but it's not proven to do anything, it has a placebo effect," he said.
"We do not wish to be invited into John Mann's black propaganda against open minded people."
"Why doesn't John Mann deal with real problems like heroin, or is he too afraid?"