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Lawmaker targets Morning Glories and other psychoactive plants

A local lawmaker who spearheaded passage of legislation that banned dozens of botanicals for human consumption now works closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to identify and outlaw plants that are potentially toxic.

Covington-based State Representative Michael G. Strain said that a number of youths had been hospitalized after abusing such plants. "One boy tried to chew his arm off and others thought they could fly and tried to," he said.

Louisiana is one of the only states in the United States with a law on the books prohibiting ingestion of Morning Glory seeds.

The seeds, legal in most places in the United States for botanical purposes, are being used more aggressively for their hallucinogenic properties by young people. Louisiana Act No. 159 makes 38 plants, including Morning Glory seeds, illegal for human consumption. The law does not forbid the possession, planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting of these plants if used "strictly for aesthetic, landscaping, or decorative purposes."

Strain, a doctor, said the issue got his attention a couple of years ago "when kids started turning up in emergency rooms because of Angel's Trumpet consumption which could cause coma or death due to heart failure."

After a flurry of Angel's Trumpet poisonings, Strain looked to a Harvard University study as the basis for further investigation of garden-variety drugs. What he found was a "thriving international distribution of potentially harmful or fatal plants that are marketed to youth as a safe high."

According to media reports, doctors, gardening shop workers, drug counselors and parents are starting to take notice of the trend for youths to ingest hundreds of the seeds in the hopes of getting an LSD-like trip.

Strain said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration or the National Institute on Drug Abuse are "finally catching on" to narcotic misuse of Morning Glory seeds. The plant thrives in subtropical regions, such as Louisiana.

Strain said the seeds of several varieties of the plant contain lysergic acid amide -- a naturally occurring tryptamine that is closely related to LSD, a hallucinogen or psychedelic that gained popularity with hippie youth in the 1960's.

Many commercially available packets of morning glory seeds are coated with fungicides or other chemicals to increase shelf life, which may cause vomiting and stomach discomfort.

The lawmaker's current "most wanted botanical" is salvia divinorum, a Mexican mint that grows readily, but needs to be cultivated.

Strain said that most ornamental plants -- anything that looks pretty -- are likely highly toxic with a strong alkaloid presence which is "nature's way of fending off insects."

Strain, whose services have been enlisted by Canada and other states, including Ohio, Washington, and New Jersey, said that through his work on health and welfare and criminal justice committees, he is "dedicated to cleaning up the drug problem in Louisiana, from the illegal botanicals to illegal distribution of oxycontin and other drugs dispensed by rampant pain clinics."

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Tags : morning glory hallucinogen
Posted on: 2006-09-26 11:59:00