Last week, the state of Florida took on a question that has popped up in the wake of proposed kratom bans, and from other similar parties working to limit access: Are the measures to establish regulated kratom markets anything more than cookie-cutter legislation backed by lobbyists?
What started as two separate bills, one in each chamber, has now made it through both, and is poised to establish the Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Acts. With two different versions, both offering distinct similarities with other pieces of legislature across the country, Florida lawmakers had the chance to decide which version worked for their state.
What emerged is an example of how kratom regulations can be a back-and-forth between constituents, lawmakers and kratom advocates.
This process kicked off in January when state Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Alex Andrade introduced two distinct bills, each titled the Florida Kratom Consumers Protection Act.
For Gruters, this was far from his first foray into attempting to advocate for kratom. Gruters district includes Sarasota, which is where his office is, and it also happens to be the only municipality in the state that has taken action to ban kratom. That’s why Gruters tried last session to get the same bill passed, but it fell short and died in committee.
Andrade also filed the same bill last session. It went unheard, and neither bill was considered by the House or the Senate. In January of this year, both men came back to the table with different approaches to regulating kratom.
Gruters’ bill in the state Senate was the more comprehensive version, which featured many aspects of similar KCPAs across the country. The bill called for proper labels with detailed information, banned adulterated products and synthetic alkaloids, and even went so far as to require processors to register with the state.
This is similar to measures that have passed in Colorado, and to those that are working their way through the legislative process in Rhode Island and Texas. Gruters said the reasoning behind a more comprehensive measure was simple: Put penalties in place to discourage bad actors.
“By placing guardrails on unregulated processors, spiked and harmful kratom batches will decrease and be prohibited,” Gruters said.
On the other side of the coin was Andrade’s bill. Although it bears the same name, Andrade’s bill has a more singular focus–banning sales to anyone under the age of 21. It also officially defines kratom products in state law and sets penalties for violating the measure.
Both bills made it out of committee with no problem, including a 12-1 vote in the Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. The Senate version also made a stop in the Fiscal Policy committee and voted favorably by a vote of 18-1.
In the House, the bill was reported favorably from the Commerce Committee and the Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. Earlier this month, it finally made its way to the floor of the House and passed the third reading by a vote of 114-0. At the same time, the Senate version of the bill was also being read on the floor.
On the second reading in the Senate, the House version was substituted in place of the original bill since it had already passed in its chamber. That meant it was advanced straight to a third reading in the Senate, where the simplified version of the bill also passed unanimously.
This type of barebones measure is similar to what eventually made its way to the governor’s desk in Virginia before being signed into law. This sort of dual approach would also provide a solution to states such as Louisiana, where lawmakers have gone back and forth over the right approach to regulating kratom.
Earlier this week, Louisiana held a hearing on a proposed kratom ban, and that bill’s sponsor said it was “not possible” to work with another state delegate who was introducing a measure similar to what Gruters proposed. The author of the proposed ban was clear, he wanted to keep kratom out of the hands of children and teenagers.
At one point in the hearing, another delegate asked point blank: Would it be possible to set an age requirement and revisit the question of kratom regulation at a later date?
What lawmakers did with the process in Florida is exactly what lawmakers in Louisiana were unwilling to entertain.
A similar process is also taking place in Colorado, where a KCPA is now facing the prospect of expanded regulation and scrutiny from the state government similar to that of the legalized cannabis industry. In that instance, representatives from the American Kratom Association said the costs would “put an artificial barrier up on kratom for consumer access” due to the costs of the regulations falling on manufacturers.
The AKA contends such regulation is unnecessary, as kratom is not a Schedule I substance at the federal level like marijuana.
What that example shows, as well as the pending bill in Florida, is that state officials and their constituents, along with guidance from advocates and the medical community, are the driving force behind the flurry of kratom regulation across America.