Ever heard of kratom? NC lawmakers want it banned

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General Assembly moves against little-known substance.

North Carolina lawmakers are considering whether to ban a substance many of them had never heard of until recently.

A week after Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Rockingham, filed SB830 to add kratom to the controlled substance list, he brought it to the Senate Committee on Health Care for discussion.

He explained how after recently seeing a news report on kratom, he checked with the state medical examiner and found that out of 23 deaths investigated during the past four years, kratom, among other substances, was found present in the person's system.

"I believe this has the potential of the next greatest epidemic," he said.

READ THE FULL TEXT OF SB830 HERE (.PDF)

Kratom is not FDA approved; the agency has said it could pose a risk to public health and has the potential for abuse.

"We don't know where it's produced, how it's produced, what other chemical attitudes are in it," McInnis said. "It's sold in beautiful, bright packages with sexy names with no limit to quality, quantity, or age. Easily available to children, sold on the streets, convenience stores and over the internet."

Rebecca Forbes of Fuquay-Varina is running for the Senate seat in District 12 and is a cancer survivor.

"I haven't found anything else that works quite the way kratom does for me," she said.

To stem lingering pain from past chemo treatments, she puts kratom in her pot of coffee.

"I was shocked," she said of the bill to ban kratom. "I just found out about this about a week ago and I'm like, oh my God. So now I'm going to be a felon for using kratom?"

The DEA reports there is no legitimate medical use for kratom. Still, several committee members said they've been hearing from constituents who use kratom to relieve migraines and aches and pains.

"The emails, I got loads of emails this morning on it," said Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth.

Even though six other states have already banned kratom, including Alabama which did so earlier this month, lawmakers want to understand why it should be illegal here.

"This all feels very anecdotal to me," said Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe in response to Sen. McInnis' reasons for banning the herb.

"I want to know more about it," Lowe said. "Period."

McInnis said experts from the NC Crime Lab and Medical Examiner's Office as well as district attorneys will present information on kratom at the committee's meeting next week.

The public will also be able to comment on the bill before it goes to a vote.

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