Sherry Owings speaks to the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Friday during a public hearing, after which the board decided to ban the substance Kratom. Owings, from Monroe County, opposed the ban. Photo by: Amanda Lien/Dispatch Staff
March 16, 2019 10:01:04 PM
Following a public hearing on Friday, supervisors banned Kratom county-wide effective April 1.
Under the ordinance, the sale of Kratom will be a misdemeanor offense, punishable by six months jail time and/or $1,000 fine. Lowndes County is one of six Mississippi counties to criminalize the substance. A bill in the state Legislature to add Kratom to the list of Schedule I drugs, which would make its sale a felony, died in House committee.
Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, with leaves containing two addictive compounds -- mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine -- that interact with opioid receptors in the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
There is no minimum age to purchase Kratom. It is sold in convenience stores as a .25-ounce bottled liquid, similar to an energy shot, or as an e-cigarette cartridge. There are also capsuled and powdered versions of the substance available online.
Columbus city councilmen and Caledonia aldermen had previously banned the sale and possession of the substance in their jurisdictions -- both votes held without offering a public hearing.
Monroe County resident Sherry Owings told supervisors during Friday's public hearing she wished Kratom would be regulated and have a minimum purchase age, but that she didn't want to see it banned county-wide. Kratom helps her manage pain symptoms from a car accident nearly 32 years ago, she said, and she doesn't want it banned in the county if it could do the same for others.
"After 31 years, my pain was gone in 30 minutes," she said. "And it's never made me high. It's just a plant. We need to put limits on it, but if people depend on this to not be in pain, it needs to be available."
Owings was the only person present at the hearing that spoke against banning Kratom. Members of a community-based drug and crime task force and Keenyn Wald, director of Alcohol and Drug Services at Community Counseling Center in Columbus, were there to advocate for the ordinance banning the substance, but they did not speak.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks moved to end the public comment session after Owings spoke, saying he was "pretty sure" every supervisor had already made up his mind. In his opinion, he said, the harm Kratom could do outweighs the possible benefits to others, primarily because the substance is unregulated.
"We take all kinds of medicine every day, and they have all kinds of side effects," he said. "We take things sometimes thinking it'll do good, but it really hurts us more. If Kratom has destroyed even one person, which we heard that it has, then it needs to go in Lowndes County."
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