Kratom, a plant in the coffee family from Southeast Asia, is the latest craze for those looking to get a little high legally. It's been used for thousands of years for both medicinal and recreational purposes, but its exact effects are not well studied nor understood. Thanks to the internet, it's spread in popularity in America in recent years, and a recent effort in the Florida House tried to have it classified as a Schedule I drug in Florida and banned.
Well, that won't happen. At least not right away. The House bill has now been amended to instruct the Attorney General's office, the Department of Children and Families' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program Office, and the Department of Law Enforcement to collect research on the drug and then make recommendations by the end of the year about what to do about the substance.
Kratom is thought to have a mild opiate-like effect, but with no adverse side effects. No deaths have been linked to use of the substance alone, and it's not believed to be particularly addictive or to lead to major withdrawal symptoms. It can be sold freely around the state, and is a common ingredient in drinks sold at Kava shops. Our sister paper New Times Broward Palm Beach chronicled trying a Kratom-laced drink back in 2013. The results were something like a sedative.
Republican Sen. Greg Evers filed the Senate version of the bill, while Democrat Rep. Kristen Jacobs filed the House version.
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But the bill has now been watered down in the House proposing research instead of an all-out ban. The new version passed unanimously in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee last week. There were concerns that Kratom did not actually meet the requirements to be considered a Schedule I drug. The Federal government, for example, has not scheduled it as such. For substances be federally labeled as a Schedule I drug, it must have a high potential for abuse, no widely accepted medical properties, and can not even be used safely under the care of a doctor.