Bans of herbal product spread in northeast Mississippi
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Northeast Mississippi is leading the state in criminalizing the possession and sale of kratom, a legal but unregulated herbal product.
A total of 28 counties and cities, all in that part of the state, have made possession or sale a misdemeanor, urged on by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and a Columbus-area anti-kratom group, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.
“Through communications with community leaders and their local elected officials, the effort to ban kratom took flight,” said bureau Director John Dowdy, who said anti-kratom efforts are likely to expand to other parts of the state.
The substance is banned in six states, but bills to make it illegal statewide failed this year in the Mississippi Legislature.
Supporters of kratom say it provides safe, non-addictive pain relief and can also combat anxiety disorders. Some kratom users also say it manages the withdrawal symptoms of potent opiate drugs. Law enforcement, however, has described kratom as addictive and dangerous.
A spokesman for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics said the agency believes kratom is linked to 12 deaths in the state, in the following counties: Covington, DeSoto, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar, Lee, Perry, Pontotoc, Stone and Union. Most of the deaths MBN claims as kratom-linked also involved other drugs.
In an advisory, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that “kratom, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse and dependence.”
In the face of bans sweeping the largely rural Northeast Mississippi, kratom users have touted its benefits.
Patrick Sudduth, 27, lives in Fulton and said he has suffered from migraines and cluster headaches much of his life. After about three years of regular use, Sudduth said he continues to find kratom effective at treating his headaches, as well as back pain.
He doesn’t believe the herbal productive is as addictive as alcohol or cigarettes.
Sudduth appeared before the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors in early April to push county leaders to reconsider their ban.
“I understand what you are doing. What you saw of it was at a gas station,” Sudduth told supervisors. “That is not actually what kratom is. That is a synthetic product mixed with something else and put in a 5-Hour Energy bottle.”
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson supports a proposed ban now being considered in the region’s most populous county. He said state officials contacted him about the issue, as have parents concerned about use of kratom by their children.
“I don’t want us to be a central hub for people who can’t buy it elsewhere,” Johnson said.
Rather than sweeping bans, Sudduth said he supports regulation to ensure purity and safety, while allowing access for people who find kratom beneficial.
“I’ve never heard a single person who uses kratom oppose regulation,” Sudduth said.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com