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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: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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