Bill Would Outlaw Kratom, Internet's New Favorite Drug, in Florida

Leaves of the kratom plant
Leaves of the kratom plant
Photo by ThorPorre | WikiCommons, CC3.0

Kratom, a plant in the coffee family, has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes in Southeast Asia for thousands of years. Chewing on its leaves provides a mild opium-like affect.

And, thanks to the internet, its found itself at the center of growing popularity in America. Mostly because its a technically legal way to get a little bit high. Well, a new bill wants to change that in Florida.

SB 0764 in the Senate and its House companion HB 0287 would add kratom to the list of controlled substances in Florida. The Senate version was filed by Republican Sen. Greg Evers.

Evers was moved to file the bill after Linda Mautner blamed her 20-year-old son's suicide on the substance. Last July, the Palm Beach County man jumped to his death from an overpass onto I-95. A mix of anti-depressants and the active ingredient of kratom were found in his system.

Kratom itself has never been documented as directly responsible for a death, and its effects on user's mental state are not well studied. Cases of psychosis and hallucinations have been reported but are rare. However, the drug's effects are generally thought to be mild. As Vocativ points out, users on the internet have made all sorts of claims about its effects, many of which contradict each other and some of which could be chalked up to a placebo effect.

The substance is generally not thought to be especially addictive.

It's currently sold openly on the internet and can be found in some stores.

Despite little being known about the substance, the effort to make it a Schedule I substance in Florida passed its first committee hearing yesterday after a narrow vote. According to the Palm Beach Post, some are concerned that the substance does not meet the criteria to be listed as a Schedule I substance and point to the fact that the federal government has not listed it as such. However, the DEA has added it to a watch list.

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