Last year, debates over legalizing marijuana dominated Florida’s legislative session. But during the Legislative session 2015, a different substance could be taking center stage as a freshman state representative from Broward County takes on the feel-good herb called kratom.
Under a bill filed by Kristin Jacobs, kratom would become what’s known as a “Schedule 1” controlled substance. That puts it in the same category as bath salts and other street drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
Federal drug officials say that kratom acts like a stimulant at low doses. But at higher doses the substance has the exact opposite effect and acts like a sedative.
Kratom is sold at some South Florida cafes that serve kava, a beverage known for its calming effects.
But Jacobs calls kratom a “bad-news drug” similar to heroin.
“It’s already banned in the (U.S.) military," says Jacobs. "So the military didn’t have any problems to say, ‘This stuff is bad, it’s addictive and we are not going to allow it.’ So it is banned in our country already.”
But some kratom supporters say the substance is no more addictive than a cup of coffee and can actually help some recovering addicts overcome withdrawal symptoms.
Last fall, Jacobs tried – and failed -- to get a countywide ban on kratom during her final days as a Broward commissioner.
Jacobs says a Senate version of her bill has been submitted for drafting by a Panhandle lawmaker.