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Kratom Users Dodge A Legislative Bullet In FL

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Kratom users are celebrating after the Florida Legislature failed to begin a crackdown on the controversial Southeast Asian plant. But the fight isn’t over.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet lists Kratom as an addictive substance that’s mildly stimulating or, in large doses, “profoundly euphoric.”

Susan Ash, executive director of the American Kratom Association -- and a Lyme disease sufferer -- calls it a lifesaver.

“I rarely left the house, I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t doing anything. I felt like I was just lost and sick, and like I was going to be like that forever.”

Representative Kristi Jacobs of Coconut Creek calls kratom a potential killer. Jacobs says she talked to grieving parents who blame kratom for their children’s death.

Kratom is not banned or blessed by the federal government, so hard evidence is hard to come by. The National Institutes of Health warns of rare cases of acute liver damage by recreational use.

Jacobs’ bill called for a study by state law enforcement and health officials, but it died after intense lobbying by Ash. Jacobs is vowing to file the bill again in January. Ash says she’ll be back too, to defend something she believes is a panacea.

“We’re talking about people with chronic pain, people that suffer from addiction, people with severe depression and anxiety. It just makes it all worth the effort, watching people turn their lives around.”

Kratom is sold on the internet or in smoke shops as gel caps or tea. It’s illegal in four states.

Jim Ash is a reporter at WFSU-FM. A Miami native, he is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.