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Tampa Bay Times finally arrives at the kratom party

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

Somebody has to be first, right?

Last month, Florida Politics reported on the surge of kratom, a plant-based product used as a homeopathic medicine that has begun to concern Florida authorities.

Traditionally, kratom leaves — an herb indigenous to Thailand and Malaysia — are chewed to treat a variety of ailments: reducing pain, an anti-diarrhea agent, and to reduce dependence on opiates. Kratom is also thought to give users energy and decrease symptoms of opiate withdrawal, as well as (allegedly) extending the duration of sexual intercourse.

In Florida, a substance such as that, one that helps people outside of the conventional medical community, will simply not be tolerated.

Not in the Sunshine (Nanny) State.

In February, Florida Politics wrote about reports of so-called kava bars offering up kratom cocktails, and “all natural” tea shops opening next to rehab centers in South Florida. Now local governments are trying to do what the U.S. military has already done, talk about shutting down access to another pain-relieving herbal therapy, known by some — usually those trying to ban kratom — as “nature’s speedball.”

Someone has to be the first to tell Floridians (that was Florida Politics, ahem) about the efforts of authorities to stop kratom’s as-of-now legal use.

Being first also means this: Someone else will be just a little late to the kratom party.

Enter the Tampa Bay Times.

On March 6, staff writer Laura Morel “broke” the news on kratom with “Authorities target pain-relieving herb — no, not medical marijuana.”

The piece goes on to show how kratom is “on the radar of many agencies” including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It also notes that so far, the only county banning the medicinal substance is Sarasota.

Florida Politics told the same story last month.

In the Legislature, state Sen. Greg Evers , a Milton Republican, and state Rep. Kristin Jacobs , a Coconut Creek Democrat, each filed bills (as of January) to put kratom on the state list of Schedule I drugs, essentially making it illegal. At that time, relatively few individuals in the state — including the Times, apparently – were aware of the issue, at least until kratom was mentioned in Florida Politics.

Regardless of whoever first talked about the “largest scourge,” one thing is sure: The debate over kratom will continue along predictable lines, ones well familiar to Floridians.

On one side is the “drug is safe” … ”It’s all natural” … and “It’s legal in much of the world” group, facing the “It’s a killer” crowd, who see kava bars as the “new pill mill crisis.”

With kratom (and its media coverage), we have seen this movie before. promises to “keep a close eye” on the matter. Evidently, so will the Tampa Bay Times – sometime later, that is.

After all, who needs assignment editors when blogs like Florida Politics are around?

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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