First there were bath salts, then K2 and now… there’s Kratom.
Some Thai officials swear by it, the Drug Enforcement agency lists it as a “drug of concern” and the bipartisan duo of Crestview Republican state Sen. Greg Evers and Democratic state Rep. Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek are trying to outright ban it in Florida.
With the first bill she has ever run, Jacobs is trying to make a complex policy change involving contested science, an embattled and slow-moving state law enforcement bureaucracy and opposition in her own party’s base — no mean feat for a first-term lawmaker in a super-minority.
But then Jacobs is no average freshman. And for her, this is personal.
She comes to the statehouse from the Broward County Commission, a powerful body many legislators would gladly resign to take a seat on and as a former (granted, largely ceremonial) mayor of a county of more than 1.7 million.
She also has met with the parents of a 24-year-old Santa Rosa man whose cause of death was uncertain until months later, partly because Kratom and the ingredients thereof are not scheduled as drugs per se and therefore not in most medical examiners’ purview. Jacobs plans to change that. Though some will anecdotally point to healing properties, she emphasizes that no U.S. authority has found the substance to have medicinal use and, moreover, that even avid users can’t agree on what exactly is in their fix.
“The purveyors and distributers will argue that in fact Kratom is not a drug, it’s harmless, an almost magical ‘herb,'” Jacobs told Florida Politics. “Last time I checked cocaine and heroine came from plants and we know what a scourge they’ve been.”
“If Kratom is so wonderful why did the FDA issue an alert three weeks ago in order to confiscate any shipment which contains the active ingredient in Kratom?” Jacobs continued. “Kratom is unregulated so no one knows what it’s cut with, or even if it contains any Kratom at all in those packets. This is about profit over public health & safety brought to you by the same people who once peddled bath salts, SPICE, and K2.”
Jacobs is not alone in her concern among elected officials. Aside from her fellow South Florida co-sponsors, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, where unlicensed Kratom consumption is common in the many popular kava bars there, is also watching the issue closely.
“The stories are heartbreaking,” said Aronberg on Thursday. “Whether it becomes a scheduled drug or a non-scheduled regulated substance, I’m always concerned when there’s a potential for abuse. Whatever the Legislature decides, I think it’s important to have this conversation in Tallahassee.”
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed a state Rep. Clay Ingram-sponsored bill Thursday banning certain synthetic substances akin to SPICE, but it makes no mention of Kratom or its botanical name, mitragyna speciosa.