Palm Beach County Commission has decided not to pursue its months-long quest to enact an ordinance that would force kava bars to put up warnings about kratom. Kratom and whether it should be banned have been in the headlines since 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 death initially led to Palm Beach County commissioners to call for a ban. Broward commissioners also called for a ban but eventually changed their mind, saying they needed more information on kratom before outright banning it.
Palm Beach commissioners eventually settled on an investigation of the ingredient offered at local kava bars that serve drinks with kratom in them before hashing out the ordinance.
The kratom leaf comes from a tree native to Southeast Asia that is found in the same family as the coffee tree. The leaves become a stimulant when chewed, and a sedative when consumed in high doses, according to the DEA. It's considered a pain killer by some.
But the herb has been a source of controversy over the years. Opponents have for some time considered kratom highly addictive, and the herbal drug has allegedly been tied to several deaths and multiple emerency-room visits across the country since it was introduced to the U.S. As a result of Mautner's death and growing concern from some, commissioners took up the ordinance to force kava bars and other establishments that sell kratom to put up a sign at their place of business that read “DEA has placed Kratom on its list of Drugs and Chemicals of Concern.”
The signs were also to say that kratom is considered highly addictive, with side effects such as psychosis, delusions, and tremors.
But commissioners announced at Tuesday's meeting that the DEA had recently removed kratom from that "list of drugs and chemicals of concern," leading the commissioners to re-think their position. Moreover, the claims of the side effects and its addictive nature needs more study, the commissioners said. The DEA has also said that more study is needed to determine if kratom is dangerous and should be listed as a drug or chemical of concern.
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Meanwhile, a bill in the House that would make kratom a Schedule 1 controlled substance has been making its way through the Legislature during the current session. The bill hasn't been discussed since earlier this month when it was placed on the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee agenda.
In 2013, a Jupiter couple 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.
The commissioners tabled the ordinance, which means they can revisit the issue at a later time if they choose to do so.