JACKSON • One day after marijuana became legal in Mississippi for medicinal use, the state House on Thursday passed legislation that would make the herbal product known as kratom illegal.
“This is a drug that has no medicinal value,” House Drug Policy Chairman Lee Yancey said from the House flood, Thursday.
Yancey, R-Brandon, said that law enforcement agencies, district attorney’s offices and other groups asked him to introduce legislation banning the product because they view it as addictive.
The bill passed the house 82-28. Most Northeast Mississippi representatives voted in favor of the bill. The Northeast Mississippi legislators who opposed the measure are Reps. Chris Brown of Nettleton, Sam Creekmore of New Albany, Rob Roberson of Starkville, and Cheikh Taylor of Starkville.
Kratom is derived from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree and is currently legal under federal law and Mississippi state law. The product is available in whole leaves, powder and capsules.
Mississippians can order the product online or they can purchase kratom, or at least what’s advertised at kratom, from gas stations and convenience stores.
Supporters of the product say it provides safe, non-addictive pain relief. Some kratom users also say it manages the withdrawal symptoms of potent opiate drugs. Law enforcement agencies, however, have described kratom as addictive and dangerous.
Some states, including Arkansas, have banned possession or sale of the herb.
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The federal Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly voiced concerns about kratom, but the agency has not been successful in its efforts to restrict the product. In 2017, the federal Department of Health and Human Services recommended kratom be given Schedule I status. The department rescinded this recommendation in 2018.
“This decision is based on many factors, in part on new data, and in part on the relative lack of evidence, combined with an unknown and potentially substantial risk to public health if these chemicals were scheduled at this time,” wrote an HHS official at the time.
The letter rescinding this recommendation did not become public knowledge until January 2021, following a wave of local bans that swept through Northeast Mississippi in 2019.
The city of Fulton, the town of Mantachie and Itawamba County have outlawed possession of the product within their boundaries, as well as in other places in Northeast Mississippi.
But elected officials in Lee …….