Kratom, an herb found in Southeast Asia and banned in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and recently Indiana and Tennessee, is often used in a drink called kava here in Florida.
But now, a new bill is proposing that the herbal drug be banned across the state. The bill, being filed by freshman Rep. and former Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, would make kratom a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
The herb has been a source of controversy over the years. Some consider kratom highly addictive, and the herbal drug has supposedly been tied to several deaths and multiple emerency-room visits across the country since it was introduced to the U.S. as a sort of pick-me-up coffee substitute.
Palm Beach County has wrestled with the possibility of banning kratom, as has Broward County. When she was a commissioner in Broward, Jacobs tried unsuccessfully to have it banned.
But now Jacobs is taking the fight to ban kratom across the entire state with her latest bill.
Kratom is from the coffee family and is used in places like Southeast Asia for medicinal purposes and as a mood enhancer. It's considered to be an opiate substitute and, if some studies are to be believed, is very addictive.
The DEA, which says kratom produces opium-like effects, has been keeping a close eye on kratom and its use across the country. It's not illegal, but there has reportedly been a growing number of people seeking treatment for addiction to it. For now, kratom is not considered a controlled substance, butt Jacobs wants to see that changed.
Kratom has been blamed for the death of a 20-year-old Boynton Beach man named Ian Mautner, who leapt to his death from the SW 23rd Avenue I-95 overpass last August.
Mautner's mother has claimed that her son was addicted to kratom.
Mautner's death led to Palm Beach County commissioners to call for a ban. They eventually settled on an investigation of the ingredient offered at local kava bars that serve drinks with kratom in them. The commission is expected to revisit the issue later this year.
In 2013, New Times reported on a Jupiter couple who sued a West Palm Beach kava bar because they claimed they became addicted to the kratom-laced drinks served there.
Since then, two of New Times' reporters actually tried kratom and reported their respective findings.
Some who consume drinks with kratom in them at kava bars like Purple Lotus Kava Bar in West Palm Beach say the herb is natural and not a mind-altering drug like other illegal substances.
Back in October, Purple Lotus owner Jim Scianno claimed that his kratom drinks are "just an alternative, something healthy and safe to take the edge off. It's the nemesis of coffee."
But if Jacobs' bill is passed, it would make kratom a Schedule 1 controlled substance, classifying it as a drug that has a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit.