Bill that would have created ‘Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act’ dies in committee

Legislation targeting kratom in Florida has seen little success.

A bill adding regulations to the sale of kratom, a plant grown in Southeast Asia that the FDA says has addictive effects similar to morphine and other opiates, has likely died after failing to receive a hearing in its final committee stop.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters filed the measure (SB 1076), dubbed the “Kratom Consumer Protection Act,” in late November. It went on to receive unanimous support in two committees before hitting a snag in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A similar bill in the House (HB 1071), filed by Pensacola Republican Rep. Alex Andrade, went unheard.

With just one week left in the Session, most Senate committees can’t meet without special approval from President Wilton Simpson.

Gruters’ bill aimed to apply to kratom products strictures similar to those placed on alcohol consumables. It would have banned the sale of kratom to people under 21 and required processors to ensure the products contain no dangerous substances.

Further, the bill would ban sellers from labeling products made with kratom as being meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition or disease. It would also have capped the allowable percentage of kratom’s psychoactive compound, 7-hydroxymitragynine, and banned the sale of extracts containing levels of residual solvents higher than standards set forth by the United States Pharmacopeia and the National Formulary.

Kratom has been used as herbal medicine for centuries in Southeast Asia. It can be consumed as a tea, in capsule and powder form, and its leaves can be chewed to treat pain, act as an anti-diarrheal and reduce opiate dependency. It has also been touted as an energy enhancer capable of, among other things, prolonging sexual intercourse.

For the better part of the last decade, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has targeted kratom as a potentially dangerous drug. In 2019, the agency issued warnings to companies selling kratom for marketing their products as being able to treat or cure opioid addiction and withdrawal.

That same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that kratom caused 91 overdose deaths in 27 states over an 18-month period. While most who died had also taken heroin, fentanyl and other drugs, kratom was the only substance detected in seven of the deaths.

Kratom is fully illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. It’s also banned in Sarasota County, which outlawed all kratom products there in 2014.

Last week, the Missouri House passed a bill, also titled the “Kratom Consumer Protection Act,” by state Republican Rep. Phil Christofanelli. The bill successfully moved through the chamber last year too, but it died in the Senate.

Legislation targeting kratom in Florida has seen little success.

In 2015, the late Sen. Greg Evers and the late Rep. Kristen Jacobs backed bills that would have added kratom to the state’s list of Schedule I drugs, effectively banning the substance outright.

Jacobs reintroduced a tamer version of her bill two years later with support from Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson shortly after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued an emergency ban on kratom. The agency later repealed the ban due to popular backlash. Both bills ultimately died after the American Kratom Association hired lobbyists from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney to advocate for the substance in Tallahassee.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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