Democrat Kristin Jacobs Calls For Kratom Ban In Florida

kristin-jacobsOn Tuesday, Florida’s House Criminal Justice Committee considered a bill, HB 287, to ban kratom, a drug made from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa, which is a tree native to Southeast Asia. The proposed legislation would make kratom a Schedule I drug like heroin or LSD. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 divides drugs into five categories or “schedules” depending on how easy they are to abuse, how safe they are, and whether or not they are currently used as medicine.

Schedule I drugs, the most severe category, are defined as having no accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse. As a Schedule I drug, possessing, selling or possessing kratom with the intention of selling it would become third-degree felonies.

The House Criminal Justice Committee voted 13 – 0 to review the bill under Committee Substitute (CS) as per Rule 7.19(c) on March 25, 2015.

Rep. Kristin Jacobs, a Democrat, had introduced the bill on January 15, 2015. Doing so fulfilled a promise she had made during her campaign. The freshman representative had unsuccessfully tried to have kratom banned the previous year towards the end of her stint as a Broward County commissioner. Kratom is currently not scheduled at all under the Controlled Substances Act, and it has never been monitored through any national surveys of drug abuse. As a result, it’s not clear how many people in the U.S. use kratom, much less what percentage of those users overdose on it or have suffered other ill effects from using it.

On February 6, Republican Sen. Greg Evans had introduced a bill, SB 764, adding kratom to Florida’s list of controlled substances. The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice narrowly approved it on March 10.

Using kratom is illegal in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar and Malaysia. In the United States, kratom use is prohibited in Wisconsin, Vermont, Tennessee and Indiana. It is also banned by the Navy and Army. The DEA has put kratom on a watch list since the agency says it can have addictive properties.

Kratom has been used for thousands of years in parts of Southeast Asia. People use it to treat pain or opiate addiction. Its chemistry, while poorly understood, actually make it potentially useful. Mitragynine, the active ingredient in the leaves, binds with serotonin receptors, so it improves mood. It has the same mu-opioid receptor as morphine, which makes it a good pain reliever. It also has andrergic activity, which promotes alertness. Given all these compounds, kratom could potentially be used to treat depression, pain and lethargy.

One of the dangers of using opiates for pain relief is that they can cause breathing problems. When somebody overdoses on an opiate, they may stop breathing altogether. Researchers have given rats mitragynine, and they did not develop any breathing difficulties. It’s possible that kratom could be used to make an effective pain reliever that doesn’t hamper breathing.