Legislature approves ban on under-21 sales of kratom

The measure is the weaker of two proposals filed this year to add safeguards for kratom to Florida statutes.

After bouncing back and forth between the Senate and House this week, a years-in-the-making measure that would ban the sale of products made from a consumable plant called kratom to people under 21 has finally passed.

Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota County, the only local government in Florida with a kratom ban, accepted a weaker version of legislation he and Pensacola Rep. Alex Andrade carried this Session.

Both bills are named the “Kratom Consumer Protection Act.” Gruters’ bill (SB 136) was far truer to that title and included detailed processing, reporting and labeling requirements. But it was Andrade’s bill (HB 179), which only includes the age limit and a definition for “kratom products,” that could soon go to the Governor’s desk.

Under the language lawmakers unanimously approved in both chambers, anyone who sells kratom products to customers under the age of 21 would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail

“We’re moving the age to 21. And that’s about it,” Gruters said with a slight air of frustration Thursday, one week after he amended HB 179 to match his bill’s stricter language and less than a day after Andrade rejected the changes, sending the bill back to the Senate.

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 those mandates came 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.”

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.”

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.”.

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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