City Board 11-7: Controversial Kratom again takes the spotlight

Melanie Victor, from Tennessee, speaks in opposition to kratom ban under discussion at Board of Alderment meeting.
Melanie Victor, from Tennessee, speaks in opposition to kratom ban under discussion at Board of Alderment meeting.

About half of the city board’s 90-minute meeting Tuesday was a debate about prohibiting the sale of an herbal “drug,” which law enforcement leaders say is dangerous.

The herb is called kratom. It is a plant in the coffee family, indigenous to Asia, which has been used there for centuries to relieve pain, boost energy and to treat opium addiction. Kratom is listed as an ingredient on the labels of what are commonly called “K Shots.” Packaged as a single dose liquid, usually about two ounces, K Shots have been widely available in convenience stores in our area. Kratom is just one of several ingredients in several brands of K Shots.

[See link below to an informative article about kratom.]Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards first brought his concern about K Shots to the attention of the Union County Board of Supervisors about a month ago. Edwards said a Union County man was recently arrested for felony theft. The man told Edwards he had committed the theft to support “a two-hundred dollar per day” addiction to K Shots. Edwards asked the county board to ban the sale of K Shots in Union County. The board responded by adding “synthetic opioids” to a list of other substances banned in the county.

Tuesday evening New Albany Police Chief Chris Robertson asked the New Albany Board of Aldermen to ban K Shots in the city as well. The matter was placed on the official agenda for the Nov. 7 city board meeting.

Both Sheriff Edwards and Chief Robertson appeared before the board to speak in favor of a city ordinance to prohibit the sale of products containing kratom.

Two women from Tennessee, Melanie Victor and Kelly Devine, spoke to the board to argue against the ban of kratom.
Victor, who identified herself as a registered nurse, told the board about what she said were the legitimate benefits of kratom. She said that the “pure” kratom, sold by legitimate sources, was a completely different product from the K Shots that purport to contain kratom. She said the legitimate kratom is brewed and consumed as a tea.

Victor said the K Shots contain many ingredients other than kratom, and that other ingredients, not kratom, were the cause of the criminal behavior described by law enforcement officers.

Devine identified herself as a person formerly addicted to many drugs. She said that the use of kratom had made it possible for her recover from the various drug addictions.

Board members discussed the arguments presented by both sides, including the fact that all the actual contents of K Shots are not known. Sheriff Edwards said he and his deputies were “not going to be arresting anyone for using tea.”

Mayor Tim Kent pointed out that banning kratom would not necessarily stop the use of dangerous K Shots, that sellers could simply remove the word kratom from the list of ingredients on the bottles and continue selling the potentially harmful K Shots.
Eventually, after advice from City Attorney Regan Russell regarding the exact wording of the city ordinance, the aldermen unanimously approved to pass an ordinance intended to prohibit the sale of the K Shot products in the city.

Ironically, as the arguments about kratom raged in the board meeting room on the second floor of city hall, Victor and Devine hosted a tea party in the city hall lobby. They brewed up a small pot of kratom tea and served it to several people in the lobby.