If some science experiment went horribly wrong and plants gained the ability to speak, kratom and marijuana would have a lot to talk about it.
They’re both plants. You can smoke them. And depending on who you are, they’re either a godsend or a dangerous hardcore drug.
Indiana’s history with marijuana is well-known and nonsensical. Kratom, though, isn’t talked about as much.
Our dear state is one of six that has banned kratom – because, of course, it is. Kratom is a plant that also comes in tea or capsule form. Critics compare it to opioids. But advocates say it can ease everything from pain to opioid withdrawal.
According to Indiana University, laborers in Southeast Asia used it to battle fatigue – which makes sense because it’s related to the coffee plant. But they also used it to alleviate diarrhea – which doesn’t make sense because it’s related to the coffee plant.
Either way, the substance landed in the news last week. Evansville woman Cara Beckerle was arrested on an alleged probation violation after she reportedly admitted to using kratom. She was arrested and accused of meth possession in December.
Beckerle is the mother of Aleah Beckerle, the disabled nonverbal teen who was abducted from her Iowa Street home and found dead in 2017 after an intense monthslong search. The man accused in her slaying, Terrence Roach, goes on trial later this month.
Cara Beckerle mug shot from Vanderburgh County Sheriff,
Cara Beckerle mug shot from Vanderburgh County Sheriff, May 1, 2018. (Photo: Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office)
Cara Beckerle’s arrest is sad. But it’s also weird because had she been a few miles away, she never would have been busted.
Despite an effort to criminalize it in 2016, kratom is legal in Kentucky. It enjoys that distinction in 43 other states as well. Yet, in Indiana, it’s listed as a schedule 1 narcotic – just as bad as heroin or cocaine.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency tried to slap it with the same designation in 2016 but backed off when an advocacy group called the American Kratom Association raised $400,000 for some highfalutin lawyers and lobbyists. In America, there’s no law a little money can’t fix.
But the feds aren’t giving up. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement in February blasting kratom saying there was no evidence it helps treat opioid addiction. Instead, he said, it acts a lot like an opioid itself and can cause addiction instead of alleviating it.
The FDA also claimed 44 total deaths contributed to the drug. But as Wired reported, many of those victims had more than one drug in their system at the time of their death. And some came after dealers laced kratom with synthetic opioids.
Then again, IU has cited studies saying kratom can cause tremors and seizures.
It’s difficult to know where to stand on this one. There’s no hardened science out there to say kratom actually does the things its advocates claim. A forthcoming documentary from filmmaker Chris Bell could change a few minds, though. “A Leaf of Faith” casts kratom as a lifesaver for those fighting opioid addiction.
If there’s any chance it could do the opposite, like the FDA claims, we should never let it sniff legality. But when it comes to drugs, it’s tough to trust the U.S. government.
These are the same people who turned their backs for decades while opioids Viking-d across the country and destroyed millions of lives. Now they act like they want to fix the problem, even while they continue to rake in campaign contributions from opioid manufacturers and distributors.
And it’s funny how they backed off from kratom when a mountain of money landed in their laps. As the songwriter Todd Snider says, “It’s not so much what drugs you’re strung out on as … whose.”
Indiana is no barometer, either. Attorney General Curtis Hill even took a hard line on CBD oil. If he ever finds out about coffee, we’re in big trouble.
There’s one easy conclusion to reach, though: drug policy shouldn’t be dictated by state lines. A drug doesn’t immediately become dangerous – or safe – just because you cross the twin bridges.
But that’s the thing about drug policy in this country. It’s not governed by science or logic or safety concerns. It’s controlled only by the whims of the people writing it – and, of course, money.
No one should be thrown in jail just because they have the wrong zip code. We need better reasoning than that.
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