Kratom Out—Alabama Becomes Sixth State To Ban The Polarizing Drug

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Kratom Out—Alabama Becomes Sixth State To Ban The Polarizing Drug

By McCarton Ackerman 05/16/16

The increasingly popular drug is often used to treat opiate withdrawal.

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Mitragyna speciosa also known as kratom

Although some people swear that kratom has helped them manage chronic pain and opioid withdrawal, the controversy surrounding its addictive potential, coupled with its ease of availability, compelled Alabama lawmakers to enact a law making Alabama the sixth state to ban the plant.

The bill was signed into law last Tuesday by Gov. Robert Bentley, effectively classifying two chemicals found in kratom, mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine, as Schedule I controlled substances. Going forward, convenience stores and head shops will no longer be able to sell kratom, which is offered as a liquid, pill or powder form and marketed as a dietary supplement. Most counties are allowing for a 24 to 48 hour grace period for merchants to dispose of the drug, according to AL.com.

According to Barry Matson, the deputy director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, kratom use "really erupted" in some areas of Alabama in the last six months. And state Sen. Arthur Orr, who sponsored the bill, said it was becoming a growing concern for Alabamians. "I had several constituents contact me asking me to do something about this drug and the negative impact they were witnessing in the lives of family members," Orr told AL.com. "They were appalled it could be purchased at gas stations, etc. and their family members were becoming addicted to it."

Alabama is the sixth state to ban kratom, following Arkansas, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Legislation to ban the drug has been introduced in a slew of other states, including New York, New Jersey, and Florida. In states where it is still legal, it exists in a legal purgatory. The Food and Drug Administration banned the import of kratom in 2014, but the agency is unable to restrict its sale unless it is proven unsafe or it claims to treat a medical condition, according to the New York Times.

Kratom advocates are not happy. Susan Ash, director of the American Kratom Association, who lobbied against the ban in Alabama, said “freedom of choice of a better, safer form of natural medication lost out.” Advocates like Ash say kratom has been a successful and safer alternative to opioid painkillers for addressing chronic pain. Many users also use kratom to self-treat opioid dependence, and ease the pain of withdrawals. 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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