Legal herb can still get Marines in trouble

8 Dec 2005 | Lance Cpl. Brandon R. Holgersen

He says he is going to meet Ska Maria Pastora, but this is only a street term for salvia divinorum-a plant, which could get a Marine in trouble with their command.

Salvia divinorum, also known as just salvia, has gained some popularity because of its hallucinogenic effects from smoking or chewing the plant leaves. It is sold on the Internet and advertised as legal marijuana.

Salvia is not a controlled substance and is not illegal, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration.

The drug can still get you in trouble in the Marine Corps, and any Marine caught using or in possession of salvia will be charged with Article 92 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, which is failure to obey an order or regulation.

Use of salvia divinorum, like any other natural substance, with the intent to induce intoxication, excitement, or stupefaction of the central nervous system is prohibited by SECNAVINST 5300.28C and OPNAVINST 5350.4C. Punitive action, adverse administrative action or both can be taken against personnel who use salvia.

“Actually, it's not very new to those in the know, but the use of salvia divinorum is on the rise in the military,” said Col. Mick McCue, the staff judge advocate with Marine Forces Atlantic. “It is currently not listed on any of the Controlled Substances schedules and is therefore not currently covered by Article 112A of the UCMJ.” 

The drug is supposed to induce illusions and hallucinations similar to ketamine, mescaline, or psilocybin, according to the DEA.

“No one has been caught on Lejeune because it is not tested for at the [urinalysis lab],” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Hubbard, the substance abuse counselor for Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base.

A pound of dried Salvia divinorum leaf purchased from wholesalers in Mexico can be had for about $100.00. Some commercial vendors resell such leaf for over $100 USD per ounce, according to Hubbard.

The substance is not widely available with purchase and advertising usually limited to the Internet.