Mississippi Legislature Back And Forth On Kratom

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On the heels of a failed attempt already this year, and in opposition to other state legislatures, one Mississippi state representative is taking another run at trying to ban kratom in the state. 

State Rep. Lee Yancey sponsored a bill during the 2022 legislative session to ban kratom, and helped advance the bill to the state’s Senate before it died in committee. Now, with other state legislatures working to establish and regulate kratom markets, Yancey has set his sights on pursuing a ban as part of the continued back-and-forth over the legality of the substance. 

As the chair of the committee that presides over drug policy in the Mississippi House of Representatives, Yancey used his influence to advance both out of committee, and through the House. The bill was passed in the house on Feb. 3, referred to the Senate committee for drug policy eight days later, then died in that same committee on Mar. 1 of this year. That still hasn’t deterred Yancey, though, as he recently told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that he plans on advancing legislation after holding a committee meeting on kratom earlier this week. 

During the meeting, experts on both sides of the issue testified about the safety of kratom and the best path forward. A former president of the Mississippi State Medical Association testified that in his assessment of available studies, the risk of using kratom outweighs the benefits. To counter, a senior fellow with the American kratom Association said the best path forward was to regulate the sale of the substance, impose an age limit and work to make sure consumers have access to pure kratom that has not been tainted with other substances. 

Across the country, and at the federal level, the same discussion is playing out. 

Currently, six states have banned kratom. The most recent came in 2017 when Rhode Island criminalized the two primary ingredients. That followed Mississippi’s neighbors, with Arkansas and Alabama banning the substance in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The first states to ban kratom acted in 2014, when both Wisconsin and Indiana took action to make the ingredients of kratom ‘prohibited drugs.’

However, that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped having the same discussion that is playing out in Mississippi. Two of those six states are now rethinking the decision, with Wisconsin and Rhode Island already working a reversal/amendment through the legislative process. 

In Wisconsin, a state regulatory board has agreed to provide guidance to the legislature, thanks to a bipartisan push. Rhode Island is taking it a step further, with a bill to establish a ‘kratom Consumer Protection Act’ currently waiting in a Senate committee after it passed the House by a vote of 47-12. In fact, more state legislatures did not vote on the measure than voted against the establishment of kratom regulations.  

The tug of war over views on kratom is also playing out at the federal level. 

In April of this year, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers against use of kratom, reiterating its stance that the substance has no medical value and could “expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.” It also mentioned that the FDA “encourages more research” of how kratom interacts with users and other substances. 

At the same time, Congress took a much different approach in a piece of appropriations legislation. As part of a report released with proposed spending bills, a House appropriations committee pointed out “promising results of kratom for acute and chronic pain patients” and urged the National Institute of Health to take a closer look at how kratom could help treat the nation’s current crisis of opioid abuse. 

So while some states are trying to ban kratom, and others are looking at amending similar actions, elected officials at the federal level believe it’s time to take a closer look at how kratom can fit into our current healthcare landscape, instead of making efforts to continue its prohibition. 

“The Committee acknowledges NIDA’s support of preclinical research on the toxicology of mitragynine, which will enable future studies of its safety, tolerability, and clinical pharmacokinetics in humans,” the report said. “The Committee also urges NIDA to consider a human clinical trial on its therapeutic effects to treat opioid use disorder, especially in light of the increases in overdose deaths reported during the COVID–19 pandemic.”

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