Teens Discover New Hallucinogenic Drug
When some people smoke or chew the plant leaves of Salvia divinorum, they experience strange things. They might turn into paint on a wall. They may leave their bodies and float to the ceiling. They sometimes merge with objects: one user described being a Ferris wheel. They visit ice palaces or labyrinths made of green crystals. They might travel back in time to a place in childhood. Some experience a sense of egolessness and a deep connection with nature.
Brett Chidester, a 17-year-old student from Delaware, thought that he had discovered “the secret of life” after experimenting with Salvia divinorum for several months. When his parents became aware of what he was doing, he explained that the herb was perfectly harmless, legal everywhere, and easily available on Internet sales websites. When Brett agreed to stop using the drug, his parents had no reason not to trust their son, who was an all-A student with plenty of friends and extra-curricular activities.
The problem was that once Brett discovered “the secret of life,” he committed suicide. He did so in January 2006 by using a charcoal grill in a tent and allowing himself to breathe in carbon dioxide. He reportedly wrote that “once you know the secret of life, it is not worth living,” and “existence in general is pointless.”
Brett’s parents have sued the Internet company that provided the drug to their son. They also were an impetus behind legislation to make salvia divinorum illegal. “Brett’s law” passed in Delaware and similar initiatives are being introduced in other states.
Today Salvia divinorum is illegal in Delaware, Louisiana and Missouri, and there is pending legislation to make it illegal in 25 more states by mid-2008.
Salvia divinorum is sometimes called “the new LSD,” although it is not nearly as powerful nor is it related to LSD in a chemical sense. LSD is a synthetic chemical; Salvia divinorum is a cultigen or a plant created by man. LSD “trips” can last eight to ten hours. Salvia divinorum generally works in the first minute or so and only lasts about five to fifteen minutes.
Is School “Fixing It?”
Hosting Teen Parties: What’s Your Liability?
Here’s the scenario. Your daughter is graduating from high school and you throw her a huge backyard bash to celebrate the occasion. You hire a caterer, find a DJ, and hit Costco for cases of beer (for you and the other adults attending) and soda (for her). The attendees are an eclectic mix of family, your friends and co-workers, and your daughter’s friends. You’ve warned your daughter that there will be no underage drinking at this party and she agrees to spread the word. Your daughter and her friends have never given you an ounce of worry, so you trust them completely. Therefore, you are shocked to learn the next day that a few of her friends smuggled some of the beer into the garage and proceeded to get drunk under your roof. They then got in a car and wrapped themselves around a tree. Shock turns to confusion later on when you are sued for negligence by the parents of the kids in the car. You call a lawyer and self-righteously exclaim “We’re not liable! We told those kids they were not allowed to drink in our home!” Guess again.
As a general rule, an individual is not liable for the negligent act of someone else. However, there are a few exceptions. The biggest exception is when you have the ability to control the actions of that third person. Although you certainly did not force your guest to drink the alcohol, simply providing the alcohol for possible consumption gives you some level of control of their behavior. In our scenario, since the party was at your house, and you provided the alcohol, you are known as the “social host”. Social host liability varies greatly from state to state, and may depend on the age of the person who gets drunk. A related type of liability arises from what is commonly known as “dram shop” laws; these laws regulate the activity of those people who provide alcohol for profit. Because the alcohol is usually free at backyard barbeques, they generally garner “social host” liability rather than dram shop law. However, make the mistake of charging $5 per red plastic “keg cup” and you may just find yourself with dreaded dram shop liability.
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