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Analysis: Mississippi considers limit on drug called kratom

Mississippi legislators are debating whether to either regulate or ban kratom, an herbal drug that can be used for pain relief and that is currently unregulated in most parts of the United States.

Posted: Mar 1, 2020 7:32 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi legislators are debating whether to either regulate or ban kratom, an herbal drug that can be used for pain relief and that is currently unregulated in most parts of the United States.

Spectators packed a large room at the state Capitol on Thursday for a hearing about the drug.

On one side of the room sat physicians, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents, recovering drug addicts and others who took turns telling lawmakers that kratom is harmful and should be illegal.

On the other side sat people wearing bright green stickers with the slogan: “Kratom saves lives.” They advocated keeping kratom legal but regulating it to ensure that it's not mixed with controlled substances and that it's not sold to minors.

Kratom is derived from a tree that's native to Southeast Asia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says the leaves can be crushed and then smoked, put into capsules or taken with water or other liquids.

“At low doses, kratom produces stimulant effects with users reporting increased alertness, physical energy, and talkativeness. At high doses, users experience sedative effects. Kratom consumption can lead to addiction," says a DEA website that lists kratom among the agency's “drugs of concern.”

The DEA says people have used kratom to relieve muscle strains and as a substitute for opium; the drug has also been used to manage withdrawal symptoms from opioids.

As of 2018, kratom was illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The group said Illinois and Louisiana ban the sale of kratom to minors.

Some confusion has existed about the Tennessee law that banned possession of a synthetic form of kratom. In 2017, the Tennessee attorney general's office said kratom in its "natural botanical form" is not a controlled substance.

Bills filed in Mississippi this year would make kratom illegal. Tuesday is the deadline for House and Senate committees to consider those. Any bill could be rewritten to do what the American Kratom Association is requesting — to set regulations on the drug rather than making it illegal.

Senate Drug Policy Committee Chairman David Jordan, a Democrat from Greenwood, said Friday that he expects legislators to regulate kratom, but he does not know if there are enough votes to ban it.

Jordan is a retired high school chemistry teacher, and he said he worries about substances that people put into their bodies.

“We, as legislators, have got to try to protect the three million people in this state — certainly, the younger people who are trying to get a quick high,” Jordan said.

A few Mississippi cities and counties have banned kratom.

Former Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden of Meridian, a Republican who was defeated in 2019, is now a registered lobbyist for the American Kratom Association.

One kratom supporter who spoke at the Capitol is Brandon resident Kathy Joiner, 68, who said she uses it to relieve arthritis pain, and that allows her to enjoy time with her granddaughter. Joiner said she does not like to go to doctors and she does not want to get into what she considers a “trap” of taking prescription drugs.

“I don't need them to make this decision for me,” Joiner said of lawmakers. “This is my body, my choice.”

Dr. Randy Easterling of Vicksburg is a past president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, and he treats people who have drug addiction. He said Mississippi should not allow the sale of kratom.

“I don't represent any group today but the one group, and that's the thousands and thousands of patients that I've treated over the last 40 years,” Easterling said. “The last number of years, more and more of those have come in for kratom addiction. I've hospitalized patients with kratom addiction. I've helped them through withdrawal.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 481397

Reported Deaths: 9395
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32996486
Hinds30973586
DeSoto30491353
Jackson23650348
Rankin21267368
Lee14867220
Madison14145271
Jones13365226
Forrest13125238
Lauderdale11538305
Lowndes10418176
Lamar10184130
Pearl River9055219
Lafayette8218137
Hancock7501112
Washington7033150
Oktibbeha6937124
Monroe6491161
Neshoba6463201
Warren6439163
Pontotoc626593
Panola6219126
Bolivar6105144
Marshall6102121
Union573086
Pike5590136
Alcorn536090
Lincoln5297131
George470072
Scott456096
Leflore4468140
Prentiss445277
Tippah443680
Itawamba4430100
Adams4403116
Tate4351101
Simpson4324112
Wayne431566
Copiah431087
Yazoo423086
Covington414792
Sunflower4137104
Marion4087104
Leake397186
Coahoma394298
Newton368775
Grenada3553104
Stone350659
Tishomingo334689
Attala324886
Jasper313762
Winston303591
Clay295273
Chickasaw286665
Clarke280290
Calhoun265140
Holmes261887
Smith249549
Yalobusha220547
Tallahatchie218850
Walthall210558
Greene207845
Lawrence206033
Perry199353
Amite198152
Webster195942
Noxubee178239
Montgomery172054
Jefferson Davis167642
Carroll161937
Tunica152734
Benton142035
Kemper138440
Claiborne126634
Choctaw126326
Humphreys126337
Franklin116628
Quitman103626
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson88833
Sharkey62820
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 781915

Reported Deaths: 13798
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1109621748
Mobile706071213
Madison49359617
Baldwin36054485
Shelby35933311
Tuscaloosa33540540
Montgomery32996673
Lee22337218
Calhoun20935400
Morgan19666329
Etowah18890454
Marshall17575274
Houston16598377
St. Clair15287298
Limestone14442184
Cullman14441252
Elmore14299259
Lauderdale13395278
Talladega12781234
DeKalb12102233
Walker10495328
Autauga9611135
Blount9595154
Jackson9293152
Coffee8764174
Dale8485171
Colbert8448180
Tallapoosa6557177
Escambia6541117
Covington6409165
Chilton6314142
Russell600655
Franklin5744101
Chambers5350133
Marion4748116
Dallas4672185
Clarke459177
Pike458895
Geneva4333116
Winston420292
Lawrence4099108
Bibb405680
Barbour342969
Marengo324783
Monroe316652
Butler316088
Randolph302855
Pickens300673
Henry299657
Hale290483
Cherokee286752
Fayette276473
Washington245048
Crenshaw236768
Clay226264
Cleburne225750
Macon218057
Lamar192541
Conecuh180146
Lowndes170758
Coosa167533
Wilcox159636
Bullock148642
Perry136336
Sumter124136
Greene120542
Choctaw73326
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