(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph City Council is looking to ban the “opioid-like” drug Kratom, from within city limits.
Kratom is a plant-based substance that some say provides medical benefits from pain and anxiety. However, mixed with other drugs or alcohol the over-the-counter drug has been found to produce a potentially life-threatening cocktail.
Alternative medicine store owners Andrew Hicks and Miguel Minnenhall say they are happy to see City Council members working to ban Kratom from within city limits.
“I don’t like the psychoactive effects of it,” said Minnenhall.
“I’m totally against opioids altogether,” said Hicks, “I’ve seen too many people die from it, including my mother.”
Kratom is grown and processed in southeastern Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, and imported into the United States and not federally regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Drug Enforcement (DEA) wanted the plant-based drug to be categorized as a class 1 drug, with drugs like LSD and Heroin in 2016, but after strong public opposition from those who say they use Kratom for its medical benefits, the new categorization was canceled. This allowed the drug to continue to be sold over the counter.
“Literally Kratom, the way it’s being sold and regulated in town is just praying on the ones who are battling addiction,” said Hicks.
“The DEA and the FDA are viewing it as a schedule one drug. That's how they want to see it as, so they are saying it is just as bad as the other opiates like heroin or cocaine or meth,” said Buchanan County Drug Strike Force Captain Shawn Collie.
Some states have bans due to the drug's lack of regulation, but Missouri does not.
“There's a lack of certification for the actual plant matter, you can say it has Kratom in it therefore you don't know what is actually in the product,” said Minnenhall.
Officials say they see Kratom used as an additive with other drugs to “heighten” their effects.
“This is one of those drugs that seem to be combined with other drugs so we haven't seen someone that just uses the Kratom only, it's mixed with opiates or other drugs or cough syrup,” said Capt. Collie.
Medical experts also say the addictiveness of Kratom makes it dangerous for those battling opioid addiction.
“We've had a couple of patients come in that had been addicted to Kratom and had to keep taking more and more of it because it was addictive ended up taking over 90 tablets a day,” said Dr. Robert Corder, a physician for St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing.
Council members heard a first reading of the city ordinance that would effectively ban Kratom possession or sale within St. Joseph city limits at its meeting on Monday.
If passed, possessing or selling Kratom will not likely carry jail time, but will be subject to penalties that can be levied in Municipal Court.