The above story of Salvia divinorum demonstrates how anecdotal evidence is bizarrely abused to create and foster the war on drugs. In modern America’s narcophobic climate one death out of millions of users can cause all adult users to be deemed criminals worthy of prosecution and incarceration.
Salvia is a particularly astonishing case because the “salvia death” of Brett Chidester that is paraded by the media and politicians is on such shaky ground:
1. His family admits he had some depression issues. His cousin, Danielle Chidester, wrote in a March 30, 2006 blog comment:
While it is true that he used to not be as happy as he was before he died, he completely changed his life around. He told me how he was so glad that he was finally happy. (swanksalot)
2. There is no evidence he was on salvia when he died. (DuLac) Because of the incapacitating effects of salvia it is unlikely he would have had the ability to take the actions he did. (He set up a tent in a garage and lit a grill inside of it to asphyxiate himself.)
3. The written passages which several media outlets, e.g. USA Today, have called a suicide note were not a suicide note at all. They are snippets from material written well before his death and read like this one:
Salvia allows us to give up our senses and wander in the interdimensional time and space. Also, and this is probably hard for most to accept, our existence in general is pointless. We earthly humans are nothing. (Doward)
4. The death certificate which the media refers to as listing salvia as a contributory cause of death initially did not mention salvia at all. It was three months after his death (and a day after the passage of Delaware’s “Brett’s Law”) that a Delaware medical examiner revised the death certificate. She refused to comment on the change. (Chalmers, 5/6/06) For more on the drug politics behind autopsies go to this post.
5. In an interview shortly after Brett’s death Kathleen admitted the basis of her salvia indictment was merely a “gut feeling.”
We just won’t have any answers, and we have to learn to accept that. But my gut feeling is it was the salvia. It’s the only thing that can explain it. (Chalmers, 2/26/06)
Due to Kathleen Chidester’s efforts, in places like Florida people like her son can now face up to five years in prison for possession of Salvia divinorum.
Oddly enough, despite believing Brett was put on earth to have salvia criminalized (Chidester), Kathleen doubts Brett would approve, “I don’t think Brett would want to be known for a law like that, but I think of it as an honor.” (Chalmers, 3/23/06)
Sidebar: Ingesting high amounts of caffeine, e.g. No-Doz, can lead to hallucinations and even death.
Rays of Sanity: California and Maine only criminalized salvia for minors.
Asinine Sensationalistic Headlines:
“Deadly Dangers of a Street Legal High” – Todd Quinones, CBS 3 Philadelphia, 30 Nov. 2006.
“New Legal Herb May Do More Damage Than LSD” – Devine, Josh, ABC12 (WJRT, MI) 19 Feb. 2007. (The only damage LSD has been found to cause is precipitating mental illness in those already predisposed to mental illness.)
“Salvia: Legal but Lethal” – Anderson Cooper, CNN, 13 Apr. 2006.
Quotes of Note:
If you’re that retarded to go ahead and try to defend the drug then you deserve whatever the hell happens to you. (swanksalot)
Danielle Chidester in one of her many comments on a blog entry written by a “dumbass” (her word) questioning salvia’s link to Brett’s death.
Three days after he died, some friend of his named Mike shared “fond memories” of Brett on MySpace; mentioning how Brett stole alcohol from his job on a regular basis. He also talked about Brett driving drunk and puking out of the window after they had gotten hammered on Absinthe. (swanksalot)
AssaultedReason responding to Danielle and comparing/contrasting alcohol/salvia treatment in his own comment. (This MySpace page is apparently no longer available.)
Links of Note:
1. Mike Chalmers, “Legal High New Worry for Parents,” News Journal (DE), 26 Feb. 2006. LINK
2. Mike Chalmers, “Proposal Would Outlaw Hallucinogenic Salvia,” News Journal (DE), 23 Mar. 2006. LINK
3. Mike Chalmers, “Salvia’s Banned, But Now the Tough Part,” News Journal (DE), 6 Mar. 2006. LINK
4. Kathleen Chidester, “Brett’s Mom Forever,” Brett Chidester – Stolen Angel (blog), ret. 5 Oct. 2009. LINK
5. Jamie Doward & Oliver Shah, “Legal Highs,” Guardian, 26 Apr. 2009. LINK
6. J. Freedom DuLac, “Hallucinogenic Herb Under Legislative Eye,” Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2009. LINK
7. “Suicide: Facts at a Glance,” CDC, Summer 2009. LINK
8. swanksalot, “Mindless Drug Propaganda,” B12 Solipsism (blog), 26 Feb 2006. LINK