‘St. Tammany does not have time to wait,’ senator tells council members
Kratom, an herbal supplement, has been listed as a drug or chemical of concern by the Drug Enforcement Administration. State Sen. Patrick McMath wants to ban it in Louisiana.
A north shore senator is taking aim at kratom, an herbal supplement that’s been flagged as dangerous by two federal agencies, and wants to see it banned in Louisiana.
In small doses, the substance derived from a tree native to Southeast Asia, acts as a mild stimulant that users say can increase alertness and energy, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet.
But kratom, which is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, can also cause psychotic symptoms and lead to addiction, according to the DEA, which lists it as a “drug and chemical of concern.”
Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, said he’s heard from parents whose teenage children have gotten sick from kratom, which he says is sold everyone. “It’s hard not to find it,” he said.
The Louisiana Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that would make kratom illegal if the DEA lists it as a scheduled drug. But McMath said he doesn’t think Louisiana can afford to wait. He wants to see it banned in Louisiana and will either sponsor or co-sponsor a measure to make it illegal when the Legislature convenes April 10.
In the meantime, though, he’s asking the St. Tammany Parish Council to consider banning its sale locally. That’s a step that Ascension and Rapides parishes have already taken.
In a letter sent to council members, McMath said kratom is readily available over the counter at convenience stores and other places.
He points to states and local governments that have banned the sale — and in some instances the possession — of kratom, which is not currently subject to any federal regulation.
“We are pursuing a ban at the state level, but St. Tammany does not have to wait for state action,” McMath wrote. “We hope you see this rally cry as a call to action, and that you’ll consider a parish-wide ban on the sale of kratom to protect our constituents and the residents of St. Tammany Parish.”
St. Tammany Parish Council member Marty Dean, a nursing home administrator, said he’s consulting with the parish legal department to see what can be done.
Dean, who has been on the Parish Council for 20 years, says he doesn’t recall any similar steps taken in the past.
When bath salts were made illegal in 2011, the first arrests under the new law were made in St. Tammany Parish, where they were enforced aggressively by police agencies.
McMath said that kratom reminds him of bath salts, which claimed lives, and he believes that’s putting kratom on people’s radar.
Dean said that kratom is sometimes used by heroin addicts “when they can’t score a hit to give them a bit of a high,” although he said it will not stop withdrawal.
The substance has an opioid-type effect, McMath said.
Since there is no age limit on its purchase, Dean said it’s being used by teenagers.
Kratom is not approved for any medical uses by the FDA, which has noted its “toxicity potential in multiple organ systems and the risks of addiction, misuse and dependence.”
BY SARA PAGONES | STAFF WRITER
JAN 5, 2023 – 2:45 PM