House refuses amended ‘Kratom Consumer Protection Act,’ sends original version back to Senate

‘I’m asking the Senate to stick with our bill this year.’

A House bill meant to be a “first step” in regulating kratom, a consumable plant with opioid-like effects, is heading back to the Senate for reconsideration after Representatives rejected changes the upper chamber made last month.

Pensacola Rep. Alex Andrade explained that while he doesn’t disagree in principle with the changes, which would require manufacturers to test their kratom products and register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). But they come with a cost neither contemplated in the bill nor accommodated by the next budget.

“While I’m happy to work in the future on consumer protections related to this product, I believe as to be fiscally responsible (that these revisions) would require a fee bill in conjunction,” he said. “I’m asking the Senate to stick with our bill this year.”

Titled the “Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act,” the bill (HB 179) as it was sent to the Senate would simply ban the sale of kratom products to people under 21 and define the substance in state statutes.

That alone, Andrade said, is a “good first step” toward mitigating the harm it could do to consumers, particularly people to minors and young adults.

House members agreed, voting unanimously for the measure April 26.

The following day, Republican Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota County, the only local government in Florida to ban kratom, amended the bill to match his version, which included testing, reporting, registration and labeling requirements.

Both lawmakers sponsored bills last year with language nearly identical to Gruters’ stricter measure. Neither bill gained much traction, prompting Andrade to narrow the scope of his bill “to make sure that we at least move in the right direction to protect Florida consumers.”

Asked by North Miami Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph why merely prohibiting manufacturers from labeling products as not intended to treat, cure or prevent a medical condition or disease wasn’t acceptable, Andrade said the cost for FDACS to enforce the rule would be too much this time around.

“We’re just not there,” he said.

Kratom is a relative of the coffee plant native to Southeast Asia. Its principal compound, mitragynine, has been used for centuries as a euphoric pain reliever.

Some people report using it to manage drug withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It’s primarily consumed orally in powder, tablet, capsule, raw leaf and concentrated extract form.

Proponents of kratom also cite it as a versatile alternative to more harmful, addictive substances like alcohol — a claim backed up, to some extent, by science. In a 2019 Purdue University study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers found kratom “can decrease alcohol intake but still (has) significant risk upon prolonged use.”

The University of Florida, which has been studying kratom for years and has ample information online, says the most common negative effects associated with kratom use are nausea, vomiting, constipation, upset stomach, drowsiness, dizziness and agitation.

High doses and frequent use of kratom have been reported to cause liver enzyme elevation. Liver function has been found to return to normal after disuse.

Most states regulate kratom. Six — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin — ban it.

“Millions of people use these products on a daily basis,” Gruters said last month. “We want to make sure … it gets in the hands of the right people, that people are getting exactly what they are asking for, and it’s unadulterated.”

As part of its regulatory provisions, Gruters’ version of the bill (SB 136) includes language prohibiting sales of kratom products that contain other substances that are harmful, poisonous or affect their quality and strength “to such a degree that it may injure consumers.”

Anyone who sells kratom products to underage customers would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to $500 in fines and up to 60 days in jail. Manufacturers that fail to report adverse tests of a product would risk losing their ability to sell the product in Florida.

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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