JACKSON, Miss (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers appear on track to pass legislation to ban kratom, an herbal drug that can be used for pain relief.
Kratom is currently unregulated in most parts of the United States but has been outlawed by some states, including neighboring Alabama. A few local governments in Mississippi have also banned the substance amid concerns that it can be harmful.
This is the second consecutive year lawmakers in the state have tried to either ban or regulate the green powdered substance. Rep. Lee Yancey, a Republican who leads the committee with jurisdiction over drug policy, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that he will advance legislation to ban Kratom.
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. The drug has been used to relieve muscle strains and as a substitute for opium; it has also been used to manage withdrawal symptoms from opioids.
In 2017, the federal Department of Health and Human Services recommended kratom be given Schedule I status. The department rescinded this recommendation in 2018.
A government report released in 2019 said kratom use was related to 91 overdose deaths in 27 states. Most who died had also taken heroin, fentanyl or other drugs. But kratom was the only substance detected in seven of the deaths.
Members of Mississippi’s House Drug Policy Committee on Monday heard from both physicians who want the product banned and representatives of the Kratom industry who touted the drugs’ pain-relieving effects.
“Of all the studies that have been done, the risk of using kratom far outweighs the benefits,” said Dr. Randy Easterling, a former Mississippi State Medical Association president.
Mac Haddow, a senior fellow on public policy for the American Kratom Association, told lawmakers that when someone dies from a kratom overdose, it’s usually because the product has been tainted with other substances.
Haddow proposed that lawmakers should keep kratom legal, but ban minors under 21 from purchasing it. Maddow also suggested lawmakers require the supplement to be “unadulterated.”
Kratom can be ordered online. It can also be purchased at gas stations and convenience stores in Mississippi.