Kratom sales still legal in neighboring Adams County after Concordia Parish ban

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Even though Kratom sales are banned in Concordia Parish, the herbal supplement is still available in Natchez and Adams County and law enforcement officials are “looking at (it) more closely.”

Kratom, Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Consumption of its leaves — whether chewed, smoked, ground up and taken in tablet form or steeped for tea — is said to produce both stimulant effects in low doses and sedative effects in high doses.

Some praise its use as an alternative to opioids for pain management. However, an article published by the Food and Drug Administration says more research is needed. The FDA warns against using Kratom, or its psychoactive compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which “affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine” and “appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.”

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There are no FDA-approved uses for Kratom, and the product remains unregulated and legal to sell in Adams County and in many other parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, though lawmakers have tried and failed to create laws to remove the substance from store shelves in both states for years. Concordia Parish and its municipalities individually passed laws prohibiting the sale of Kratom.

Natchez Police Chief Cal Green said that while widespread abuse of Kratom hasn’t been an issue discussed in Natchez yet, it’s something to consider.

“If it’s a problem over there directly across the river from us, it’s not too far from us and definitely something we should be looking at more closely,” Green said. “I’ve read the horror stories. I just want people to be careful with what they put into their bodies and read the side effects.”

Green said she doesn’t know if Kratom had anything to do with calls for service in the city for hallucinations, behavior issues or overdose.

“We do have so many in our community who suffer from mental health issues. It would be difficult for me, not being a medical professional, to separate those who are having a mental health crisis from those who are having a reaction to this drug,” she said.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said because the supplement is considered legal, “we really don’t have a way to even test for it.”

Patten said that in cases of overdose, the most common culprits he has observed are fentanyl and methamphetamine. New Mississippi law passed in 2022 targets the sellers of fentanyl to the extent that they could face 20 years to life in prison if the sale directly results in an overdose death.

However, Patten said no one in his jurisdiction has been connected to such a case since the law passed.

“Unlike with other cases, drugs don’t have a fingerprint to attached to certain individuals, so it’s harder for us to trace,” Patten said.

During its April 24 meeting, the Concordia Parish Police Jury passed a new ordinance banning the sale of Kratom in the parish, joining other Louisiana parishes to do so.

The new law makes violators punishable by a fine of $500 or imprisoned for no more than six months or both for the first offense and $1,000 or imprisoned for no more than six months or both for the second offense.

All subsequent offenses are punishable with a $1,500 fine or imprisonment for no more than six months or both. Licensed businesses that violate may also have their business license suspended in the parish in addition to the other penalties.

Police jury members said Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office requested a local ordinance to ban Kratom sales and unanimously supported it.

“I am very pleased with the Concordia Parish Police Jury’s decision to ban the sale of Kratom in Concordia Parish,” Sheriff David Hedrick said. “Kratom is an unregulated substance that is being sold to our young people over the counter in many stores and vape shops. If, by passing this ordinance, we can save one life, I consider it to be extremely successful.

“I pledged to the people of Concordia Parish that I would do everything possible to keep the children of our parish safe. I would like to thank the Police Jury for understanding the seriousness of this drug and for voting favorably for the ordinance that I requested to ban the sale of Kratom in the parish.”