A medical researcher says banning Salvia would hinder research.
He said that the herb, traditionally used in indigenous religious ceremonies in Mexico, acts on a different receptor in the brain than other hallucinogens such as LSD. By studying how it works, he hopes to find ways to treat Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia.
"Outlawing it basically brings research to a halt," he said.
Roth runs a psychoactive drug screening program for the National Institute of Mental Health at UNC. He said he's aware of at least four drug patents from Salvia-derived chemical compounds that have already been submitted, including his own.
Based on his research and other studies, Roth said the herb's active ingredient, Salvinorin A, is not addictive and leads to a dream-like state. Although a few cases have been reported of people becoming violent while using it, he said its effects only last about 15 minutes and typically do not lead to aggression.
Roth said many regular users of hallucinogens have said they do not enjoy the herb's effects and typically use it only once.
"Most people don't like it," he said. "It's just too intense."