There’s a little red cardboard box inside my desk with a baggie of green powder inside. It has been there for three years. The last time it came out, the universe ripped apart. Traveling at light-speed through an infinite linear dimension, I told my buddy to stay close by. If we got separated, we could be in trouble.

The ride continued until I looked up at a jet’s contrail across the starlit sky, certain that time had indeed stopped, matter no longer existed (nor did I, for that matter), and the entire universe, from the Milky Way to the farthest black hole, had been split down the middle.

Moments later, I re-established my own presence. My friend was there, and I was glad he was still around. My face was soaked from the tears — not out of fear or sadness, but the simple inability to stop them. The intense pressure I’d felt on my entire body, especially my face, slowly lifted.

Salvia divinorum ain’t nothin’ to fuck around with. It’s right up there with slugging a couple bottles of Robitussin DM. And you’ll get farther out there, legally, than you’re likely to go with a needle in your arm and a baggie of white powder.

Salvia opponents (and the media) frequently refer to the “diviner’s sage” as “legal pot.” Yes, it’s a plant and you smoke it to get high, but the similarities stop there.

When salvia extracts gained popularity a few years ago, well-intentioned politicians predictably moved to ban it. Rep. Chip Huggins (R-Columbia) introduced a bill to restrict its sale in South Carolina in 2008, in part citing one story of a Delaware mother who claimed the drug made her son kill himself.

“The bill didn’t really go anywhere,” Huggins said last week. “It’s something we do intend to follow up on in the next year. We’ll continue to do what we can to make its status equal and the same as marijuana.”

Huggins says that “two or three” constituents still call him about renewing efforts to ban salvia, but he also admits he’s unaware of any hospitalizations or dangerous episodes related to the drug in the Palmetto State.

At Factor Five, which experienced a surge in sales after City Paper wrote about salvia in a 2007 story (whence the aforementioned universe-ripping episode occurred), 2010 sales are about half of where they were at the peak, says owner Joan Graf. A U.S. military ban on servicemen using salvia hasn’t helped, but newer plant-based extracts that actually do mimic THC, like K2 and Space, have lapped up salvia’s market share.

“Salvia is bizarre. It opens up a different world of possibilities. Sometimes we need a world where we don’t have to pay bills,” says Graf. “Salvia doesn’t make you want to kill yourself. The last thing you’d want to do is snuff out this new dimension.”