Vidalia, Louisiana Kratom Ban Sparks Controversy

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Map shown of Vidalia, Louisiana where kratom ban was enacted.

Despite no significant public comment or scientific reasoning, Vidalia, another town in Louisiana has taken advantage of a loophole in the law to enact a ban on kratom. 

The town of Vidalia became the latest community in Louisiana to take action against kratom at the behest of law enforcement and unanimously passed an ordinance to enact a kratom ban. Without a public comment period or any sort of presentation or discussion around kratom, the Board of Aldermen added an amendment to the ban. It passed in a matter of minutes at a meeting on Oct. 10. 

This issue was initially raised at the Sep. 12 meeting of the board, after the police chief brought the idea of a ban on kratom to the board the day of the meeting. Mayor Buz Craft said he had not researched kratom until that day, incorrectly saying it might be “hallucinogenic” and before saying “This targets our kids” and talking about how vaping is “rampant in our kids.” 

Kratom is not hallucinogenic. Opponents of kratom have never made such claims. Kratom is usually mixed into a beverage or brewed in tea. Kratom is not sold in a form designed for smoking and has no connection to vaping whatsoever. Louisiana also passed a law at the state level earlier this year banning the sale of kratom to minors. 

That didn’t stop Craft from telling the members of the board that you can “Smoke kratom and put it in pills.” Kratom is sold in capsule form, as well as gummies and different types of liquids, and is most commonly used as an additive to drinks and teas and sold as a powdered leaf product. It is highly advised to not smoke kratom.

Recycled ‘Research’

Craft also repeated a ‘usual suspect’ of conflicting information and referenced a Mayo Clinic article. Other public officials similarly used the article to Craft, who said he only began researching kratom the same day he made the claims. That article from the Mayo Clinic is from February 2019 and does not include any direct links to research, articles or data. 

Federal research on kratom has been conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University and indicates that much of the information presented in the discussions in Vidalia has no scientific backing.

So how did a small group of aldermen ban a virtually unregulated substance at the state level? That same state law included a carve-out for local municipalities to set their own laws on kratom, which is the mechanism that Vidalia and others in Lousiana have recently activated. 

Tightening the Restrictions

The first version of the proposed ordinance only banned the sale of kratom in the community–at the Oct. 10 meeting, that changed. Craft summoned a member of law enforcement to the mic for public comment who eventually proposed adding a ban on the possession, distribution and manufacturing of kratom to the ordinance. 

Without any questions or remarks, the board questioned if the town counsel could add such an amendment to the measure. Two board members, the town counsel and the member of law enforcement simply referred to as “Jimmy” sounded out the motion and immediately passed the change in how the ordinance was worded

Vidalia is a community of less than 5,000 people located on 2.59 square miles of land in a state that refused to schedule kratom in the most recent legislative session. Each house in the state legislature considered different bills to ban kratom at the state level, but neither of them made it through with such a ban still intact. 

That discussion also included a bill that would have introduced a Kratom Consumer Protection Act to regulate the production and sale of kratom in the state. The bill died after making it out of the state House of Representatives. 

Concerns Over Enforcement

At a hearing for a ban in the city of Zachary, advocates for kratom testified that the legislator who proposed the ban decided to change his mind after hearing from the people who would become criminals in the wake of such action. Now, the city of Vidalia is a no-fly zone for kratom, including possession for personal use, meaning that law enforcement can take action against anyone within city limits in possession of the plant. 

The worry among advocates is real considering recent developments around legal action taken against kratom customers. 

In nearby Arkansas, a man was arrested after buying kratom for personal use and later died in custody under suspicious circumstances. Alabama is another state that has banned kratom, and a woman was arrested just over the Florida border and now faces drug trafficking charges for a small amount of an herbal supplement that is not scheduled at the federal level.

With law enforcement proposing the ordinance to the mayor, providing the reasoning behind the ban and eventually suggesting an amendment, advocates are worried such a measure could be another reason to target kratom consumers for possessing a dietary supplement for personal use. 

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