Republican Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota last year nearly got legislation across the proverbial finish line that would have added regulations to the sale of kratom, a recreationally consumed plant with addictive effects similar to morphine and other opiates.
That bill, which stalled out in its final committee stop, is now back in near-identical form for the 2023 Legislative Session.
Gruters filed the bill (SB 136), titled the “Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act,” on Monday. If passed and ratified, the measure would ban the sale of kratom to people under 21 and require processors to ensure products are devoid of dangerous, non-kratom substances that affect the quality or strength “to such a degree that it may injure a consumer.”
Violators of the law, which would go into effect July 1, would be fined $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 each time thereafter. Sellers of kratom products containing prohibited substances would be exempt from such a fine if they prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that they “relied in good faith upon the representation of a manufacturer, processor, packer, or distributor of the kratom product.”
Gruters added a line to this year’s version of the bill that the prior iteration assumed: the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, now headed up by former Senate President Wilton Simpson, would be the agency responsible for enforcing the new regulations.
Kratom — whose principal compound, mitragynine, works as a euphoric pain reliever — has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia. The leaves of the plant can be chewed to treat pain, act as an anti-diarrheal and reduce dependence on opiates. It’s also consumable as a tea, in capsule and powder form, and has been touted as an energy enhancer capable of, among other things, extending the duration of sexual intercourse.
Proponents of kratom also cite it as a versatile alternative to more harmful, addictive substances like alcohol — a claim backed, to some extent, up by science. In a 2019 Purdue University study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers found that kratom “can decrease alcohol intake but still (carries) significant risk upon prolonged use.”
Substances the bill designates as dangerous include those listed as controlled, poisonous or otherwise harmful in existing state statutes and synthetic alkaloids like synthetic mitragynine, synthetic 7-hydroxymitragynine and other synthetically derived compounds of kratom, whose scientific name is mitragyna speciousa.
Products with levels of the psychoactive compound 7-hydroxymitragynine higher than 2% of the alkaloid composition of the product, a well as extracts containing levels of residual solvents higher than standards set by the United States Pharmacopeia and the National Formulary, would also be banned.
Further, the bill would prohibit any product labels claiming that kratom is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition or disease.
Gruters’ kratom bill last year cleared two committees with unanimous support before stalling out in its third and final stop before the Senate floor. A similar proposal in the House, which Pensacola Republican Rep. Alex Andrade carried, died without a hearing.
A House version of this year’s bill awaits sponsorship.
Several other lawmakers in recent years have tried passing restrictions. In 2015, the late Sen. Greg Evers and the late Rep. Kristen Jacobs pushed bills to add kratom to the state’s list of Schedule I drugs, a move that would have effectively made the substance illegal statewide.
Jacobs reintroduced a milder version of the measure in 2017 with Senate support from Darryl Rouson shortly after the Drug Enforcement Agency issued an “emergency” ban on kratom. The DEA later rolled back the ban following popular backlash.
Those bills fared similarly poorly, possibly due to lobbying the American Kratom Association conducted in Tallahassee through government relations firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
For eight years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has targeted kratom as a potentially dangerous drug. In 2019, the FDA warned sellers against making claims that their kratom products can be used to treat or cure opioid addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
A 2020 survey by the Center for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that some 2.1 million Americans reported using kratom in the year prior.
It’s growing more popular in Florida, according to a May 2022 Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, which found a 27% increase in occurrences of kratom use over the first half of 2021 and a 36% rise in kratom-involved deaths over the same period.
Between January and June 2021, FDLE reported 154 people died with kratom in their systems. In 106 of those cases, the Department said kratom was the primary cause.
In recent months, kratom has again made headlines for its potential deadliness. In November, the family of a 39-year-old Boynton Beach woman who overdosed on kratom in June 2021 announced it was suing the manufacturer. The Palm Beach County Coroner determined she died due to “acute mitragynine intoxication.”
Last month, the family of a 43-year-old Georgia man who died in November after mixing a kratom supplement into his orange juice filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Houston-based Expert Botanicals after a medical examiner ruled his death was due to “acute mitragynine (kratom) toxicity” from one of its products.
The mother of a 19-year-old Texan who died this month is taking similar action against a local smoke shop that sold him a kratom supplement without warnings or dosage instructions.
Kratom is illegal to buy, sell, possess or use in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. It is legal with some regulation in all other states.
That includes Florida except for Sarasota County, which banned all kratom products there in 2014.
January 9, 2023 at 10:35 pm
The Kratom Consumer Protection Act is sensible regulation. Pure lab tested kratom is safe. I’m a 68 year old great grandmother who’s been taking kratom to help manage my pain and overall health for 6 years. I’ve never taken more than 8 grams in a 24 hour period. There are many days in a month when I don’t take any. My doctor knows that I take it and says that as long as it’s helping me and not harming me she doesn’t see any reason to NOT take it. I have never felt high or sleepy or out of control in any way. I work full-time and because of kratom, I can run a playground with my great grandchildren, ages 6 and 3. Before kratom I would never have been able to do that. Banning such a helpful natural alternative will only hurt people. Safety will be compromised and people who have been able to kick dangerous addictive drugs will turn to deadly street drugs. Overdose numbers will rise. The KCPA is the only sensible and human thing to do.
January 10, 2023 at 8:44 am
So now we list things on our system when we die. I am sure plenty of people have died with tylenol in their system. I am also sure that thousands of more people die every uear due to tylenol. If 2.1 million people are takong kratom and 106 people pissibly died from it then i would say that kratom is relatively safe. I do question the desths because recent research out of Florida showed that even at incredible amounts mitragynine didn’t kill rats when they were injected.
There are so many research chemicals you can buy off the internet that you never know what someone has taken.
Also, if you look at some of the desths where the FDA listed kratom as the cause you will find events such as a man who jumped off a bridge, a man who shot himself with a shotgun, and a hosts of other calamities that have nothing to do with kratom.
All the lying the FDA has done discredits you and anyone else who cite them.
January 10, 2023 at 12:43 pm
These agencies, who have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry who is negatively affected by products like this, are fabricating stories and manipulating data. We have witnessed them destroy their own credibility over the past few years and they assume we are stupid enough to continue going with it.
To my knowledge, and I monitor this industry closely (it’s my career) , nobody has ever died from unadulterated kratom leaf alone. There is more than one study done on this, but the one I could find quickly enough to post here is located at https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.chemrestox.8b00218 (full text at https://sci-hub.se/10.1021/acs.chemrestox.8b00218). The study data show that, after converting the animal dosages to their human equivalents (divide rat dosage by 6.2), it would require 7,276 mg of mitragnyine (kratom’s main alkaloid by far) to reach LD50, or where 50% of the study participants are killed as a result.
Good kratom leaf has about 1.5% mitragynine content – about 15 mg per gram – so this means one would have to consume just over 17 ounces of the raw plant material to reach LD50, which is the industry standard for measuring toxicity/lethal dosage. Aside from not being able to physically fit that in the stomach, an individual would become extremely nauseas and begin vomiting heavily before even getting through a fraction of that volume.
Many of these alleged kratom deaths have been comically false. See the examples of gunshot wounds and hangings being blamed on kratom, and that’s just a couple of examples. Others have involved multiple substances or preexisting conditions or have otherwise failed to prove causation.
I’ve come across a small number of fatality cases that do look like mitragynine could potentially be the sole culprit. They have either failed to conclusively rule out other causes – the absence of recreational drugs doesn’t rule out other possibilities – or they are still ongoing and the data aren’t available. The caveat here is each one of them involved kratom extracts, which contain an amplified amount of mitragynine (up to 90% mitragynine per gram) and sometimes 7-hydroxymitragynine. To be clear, these products could be abused with fatal consequences, but it would require a great deal of negligence on the part of the user. You can overdose on anything, including water, if you are irresponsible.
Adults should be able to make the decision to use these substances if they so choose. There should be requirements relating to labeling, directions, and minimum age for sales, but the industry already self-regulates and there is are certain standards successful vendors hold themselves to. The bad actors are exposed quickly by the extremely active kratom community and don’t last long. The same can be seen in any industry, even regulated ones.
Disclosure: I am a Florida-based kratom vendor who supports third-party laboratory product testing, truth in labeling, responsible use, and minimum age requirements.
Oh, and if you have some free time, go and research how many deaths annually are attributed to FDA approved drugs. You may want to reconsider who you trust.
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