Senator Pam Helming and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle introduced legislation that would ban minors from purchasing, possessing, or using any product containing kratom.
The bill, S.6924/A.8787, would amend the state Health Law to define and regulate kratom and for the Department of Health to conduct a study on the benefits and risks of kratom.
Kratom is a tropical tree in the coffee family originating in Southeast Asia, where it has been used as an herbal drug. The drug is believed to have some health benefits such as pain relief, stress relief and as a substitute for opioids, but many also say it has a high potential for abuse and addiction.
The Drug Enforcement Administration moved to ban the sale and classify it as a Schedule I drug back in 2016 but the decision was delayed to allow further research to happen. According to media reports, more than 142,000 people signed a petition asking the federal government to reconsider.
Kratom is easily available in smoke shops, vitamin and nutrition centers and even convenience stores.
“This legislation shows that we take seriously the addiction crisis that is plaguing our families and communities instead of just paying lip service to it,” said Sen. Helming, who says she learned about the dangers of the drug while attending an awareness event at the Seneca Falls Central School District.
Many states have defined kratom as a synthetic drug and a controlled substance. Countries such as Australia, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania and Sweden have made kratom illegal.
“Substance abuse is a scourge plaguing communities across our state, spanning all socioeconomic backgrounds, and devastating countless families and individuals both young and old. Regulating the sale and usage of kratom is a critical step toward protecting our young people from the perils of addiction,” said Assembly Majority Leader Morelle.
Although there may be potential medical use for the drug, there are still concerns and many unknowns about kratom, the bill sponsors say.
The Assembly bill has 17 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Health Committee. The Senate bill has one co-sponsor — Sen. Andrew Lanza — and has been referred to the Rules Committee.