Eyewitness Investigation: Dangerous Herb is Legal in Utah

Eyewitness Investigation: Dangerous Herb is Legal in Utah

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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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Debbie Dujanovic - reporter
Kelly Just - producer
You've probably never heard of Salvia, but chances are your kids have.

They know about it, they know where to buy it, and how to use it. And, it's all legal.

In tonight's Eyewitness News Investigation, we expose this dangerous herb.

Salvia divinorum plants look quite ordinary. But their leaves contain a potent drug. Tonight we go undercover to show you how easy it is to buy, the Utah kids who've tried it, and parents who are shocked by the plant's powerful effects.

Eyewitness Investigation: Dangerous Herb is Legal in Utah

"You're losing me, ladies and gentlemen. You're losing me."

Jim just smoked Salvia. To show others what it's like, he put his experience on the internet.

"I feel like the octopus ride. Ha, ha, ha. It's awesome, awesome, awesome. Whooh!"

Jim's not the only one. We found a bunch of these online videos.

"Salvia is like, really quick-hitting stuff."

"It's so cool."

"Dude, it's already hitting."

Eyewitness Investigation: Dangerous Herb is Legal in Utah

"I am rocking the world right now."

"Like I've stepped outside of my body."

Salvia lets kids get high without getting into legal trouble. It's a perfectly legal substance that's perfectly easy to buy. We sent a producer and undercover camera into four Salt Lake City smoke shops in search of Salvia.

Producer: "I'm wondering if you have Salvia."

Clerk: "Salvia? Yes."

Producer: "Hey, how's it going? I'm looking for Salvia."

Eyewitness Investigation: Dangerous Herb is Legal in Utah

Clerk: "Come right back through here. Okay. It's right over here in this corner case."

In just two hours, we'd spent $66 and bought enough Salvia for up to 40 doses.

Salvia is shipped to the U.S. from Mexico, where Indians used it for religious visions, and named it the "diviner's sage." Today kids refer to it "Sally D" and they use it to escape.

"You just feel like you're the god of it all. You are the god. You've got it all going on. You have it going on."

Don't think Utah kids are using it? The very first teens we approached knew all about it.

Debbie Dujanovic/Eyewitness News: "How'd you hear about it?"

18-Year Old: "Through some friends."

Debbie Dujanovic: "Kids at Cottonwood are using it?"

16-Year Old: "Yeah, they know about it. Yeah."

Debbie Dujanovic: "Did you try it?"

18-Year Old: "Yeah."

Debbie: "What did you think?"

18-Year Old: "It was alright."

Both say parents are in the dark about this powerful herb.

"I never even had heard of this."

This mom never heard of Salvia until she found out her daughter had tried it. The hallucinations scare her.

Mom: "You don't have control. You're not making conscious, healthy choices for yourself. You can't be."

Eyewitness Investigation: Dangerous Herb is Legal in Utah

What about other parents? We put those online Salvia videos on a DVD and took it to a football game at Hunter High, a school where we know students have used the herb. We ran into parents from Hunter as well as Spanish Fork and Kearns.

Debbie: "The herb is called Salvia. Have you heard of it?"

Dad: "No, never heard of that."

Debbie: "Detectives we've talked to say it gives kids the same high as LSD."

Mom: "Really. I've never even heard of it."

Debbie: "What do you think?"

Mom: "And children here are using this? That can't be right for it to be legal."

Dad: "That should be illegal."

Debbie: "It's also for sale over the internet. You can have it delivered to your door."

Mom: "Oh, that's nice."

Detective: "We've seen it in Riverton. We've seen it in Cottonwood Heights-- the east bench to Kearns."

This undercover narcotics detective's biggest frustration? Not being able to do a thing about it.

Debbie: "If you find Salvia on someone, can you take it away from them?"

Detective: "No."

Debbie: "Because?"

Detective: "Because it is legal in the state of Utah for them to possess Salvia."

Debbie: "Even if they're tripping out on it?"

Detective: "Even if they're tripping out on it."

Scary, when you think about the kinds of things that can happen during one of those trips.

"They can become violent. They can get up and run in the street and not realize what they're doing in the state of hallucinogen they're in."

In fact, the people who sell Salvia know full well how nasty and unpredictable the high can be. They even gave us a warning.

Clerk: "Make sure there's someone who doesn't smoke with you."

Producer: "Yeah, that's what I've been reading about, that you need a sitter."

Clerk: "Yeah, you need a sitter."

In just the past two years, five states have passed laws against Salvia. Four others have proposed legislation that would criminalize the use of Salvia or make the plant a controlled substance.

As for Utah, there's nothing on the books right now. Drug cops we talked to for this story told us they are hoping someone on capitol hill will take action this January.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has added Salvia divinorum to the "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern" list. Click here to read what the agency has to say about this herb.

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