Recent developments, and the attention it’s getting on social media, have reignited calls for compassion surrounding an Alabama woman arrested earlier this year for possessing kratom.
Shaina Brown was pulled over on March 31 of this year approximately 200 feet across the border between Alabama, one of six states that bans kratom, and Florida, a state with a regulated kratom market. Court records indicate that police officers from the Flomaton Police Department found 250 grams of kratom, around $50 worth, and proceeded to charge Brown with drug trafficking following her arrest.
Brown’s bond started at $1 million before being lowered to $250,000. If convicted, the penalty for trafficking a Schedule I substance (a Class A Felony) would be either 10-99 years or life imprisonment. Records indicate that Brown, who lives in a different town in the same Alabama county as Flomaton, told police she still thought she was in Florida.
Due to the potential penalties and the mixed policies of kratom on a state-by-state basis, the outcry against these charges has been consistent since Brown’s arrest in March. Now that backlash is starting to impact her case in myriad ways.
Initially, supporters of Brown set up a petition on Change.org and a GoFundMe to help fight the charges and to show support. Even with the changes to Brown’s bond, the petition still sought to free Brown from detention, whether permanently or on bail.
“Please dismiss the charges against Shaina Brown and release her from Unconstitutional Confinement,” the petition read. “If this is not done her bond should at least be lowered to a far more reasonable amount.”
Social Media Attention on the Case
As the efforts gained attention, and money was raised on Brown’s behalf, others took notice.
Through updates on the Facebook page for ‘The Kratom Guy Show,’ Brown’s condition and status have ranged from a stint in solitary confinement to being moved to a new location due to other inmates trying to extort Brown for money, per the page. Other inmates were aware of the funds being raised on Brown’s behalf.
Word of that support also made it to the court.
In an update dated Aug. 3, it was stated that Brown had been moved back to the jail associated with the court despite no formal action taken by the state. Later, the update revealed that the state claimed Brown no longer qualified for a public defender due to funds being raised on her behalf.
Two days later, the group supporting Brown posted that it had hired “the best criminal defense attorney in Alabama” thanks to the financial support pledged on Brown’s behalf.
While the case officially remains in limbo in a legal sense, recent developments have galvanized support for Brown on social media.
The case was covered in an Instagram reel put out by The Free Thought Project and has received more than 1600 likes and gained hundreds of comments. That support has made its way back to Brown, in more ways than just financial. In a postcard that was posted on Facebook, Brown responded to those who have taken up her cause “through this craziness.”
“Thank y’all so much from the bottom of my heart,” the postcard said. “I can’t express how grateful I am for the love and prayers, reminding me there is still light in this dark world.”
A blog post that accompanied The Free Thought Project’s coverage of the case stated that Brown’s previous interactions with the law are limited to a speeding ticket and a bad check offense for less than $500. Now she is facing a felony for $50 worth of powdered kratom and a bond set higher than defendants facing charges such as murder, strangulation and sexual abuse.
“It Is So Wrong”
The Change.org petition supporting Brown has 750 supporters, including many who utilized the ‘Reason for Signing’ section.
There were commenters like Cathy Collins, who questioned why the state felt it necessary to seek such severe penalties for a victimless crime.
Collins listed her reason for signing as “because it is so wrong what is happening to her” and added: “It’s so wrong that it’s happening to so many innocent people. It will continue to happen to more and more innocent people unless something is done about it.”
Others understood that while kratom is currently Schedule I in Alabama, they felt that the state is abusing its power in its treatment of and proposed punshiment for Brown.
“This is absolutely insane,” a comment from Ashley Vaughan read. “She wasn’t hurting ANYONE and wasn’t “trafficking” anything. Please make this charge lesser of an offense. A possible life sentence for not harming anyone just isn’t doable.”
Perhaps the most popular refrain came from the hypocrisy of Brown’s treatment in a conservative state. Many commenters questioned what such treatment says about drug policy and the perception of individual freedoms in America.
“Alabama is supposed to be (a) haven for less government control yet you made this illegal,” read a comment from Joshua Costas. “You should (be) ashamed of yourselves).”