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Mississippi lawmakers are on track to ban the herbal drug Kratom

JACKSON, Miss (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers seem on track to pass legislation banning kratom, a herbal drug that can be used to relieve pain.

Kratom is currently unregulated in most parts of the United States, but has been banned by some states, including neighboring Alabama. A few local governments in Mississippi have also banned the substance, fearing it could be harmful.

This is the second year in a row that state lawmakers have attempted to ban or regulate the green powdered substance. Representative Lee Yancey, a Republican who heads the drug policy committee, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that he would propose legislation to ban Kratom.

Kratom is derived from a tree native to Southeast Asia. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency states that the leaves can be crushed and then smoked, put into capsules, or taken with water or other liquids. The drug was used to relieve muscle tension and as a substitute for opium; it has also been used to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms.

In 2017, the federal Department of Health and Human Services recommended that kratom be granted Schedule I status. The department rescinded this recommendation in 2018.

A 2019 government report said kratom use was linked to 91 overdose deaths in 27 states. Most of those who died had also used heroin, fentanyl or other drugs. But kratom was the only substance detected in seven of the deaths.

On Monday, members of Mississippi’s House Drug Policy Committee heard from doctors who want the product banned and from kratom industry officials who touted the drugs’ pain-relieving effects.

“Of all the studies that have been done, the risk of using kratom far outweighs the benefits,” said Dr. Randy Easterling, former president of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Mac Haddow, senior public policy researcher for the American Kratom Association, told lawmakers that when someone dies from a kratom overdose, it’s usually because the product has been contaminated with other substances.

Haddow proposed that lawmakers keep kratom legal, but ban minors under 21 from purchasing it. Maddow also suggested lawmakers require the supplement to be “pure.”

Kratom can be ordered online. It can also be purchased at gas stations and convenience stores across Mississippi.