by: Tom Regan – WSBTV
MARIETTA, Ga. – Over fifty lawmakers, including three Georgia representatives in Congress, have asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to delay a ban on kratom, a legal stimulant that is created from leaves of trees in Southeast Asia. Advocates said the herb can provide a safe pain relieving alternative to prescription pain medication and ease withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction.
In a letter to the DEA, the representatives, which included physicians, asked that the ban set to take place Friday be postponed to allow further research and public comment on the potential benefits of kratom.
“The DEA’s decision to place kratom as a schedule I substance will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions–a significant public health threat,” the letter read.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, and Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, were among dozens of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who signed the letter to the DEA.
A Marietta store owner who sells kratom, but is not a consumer of the herb, believes it’s a far safer natural alternative to pain medication.
“It’s basically like drinking a coffee. Generally it’s like mood enhancement. It gives you energy for the day. I think that there’s been a severe over reaction to the product and there’s no real reason,” said Ali Parman.
In announcing its intention to federally ban kratom, the DEA last month said the compound was prone to abuse, severe side effects, and was linked to 15 deaths between 2014 and 2016.
A director at a residential drug treatment center in Marietta said he supports a ban on kratom.
“It’s too easily accessible to young kids, and with the epidemic we have presently, it can spark other addictions in the same way. I had the personal experience of working with someone who has experimenting with kratom and required the same detox as a heroin detox,” said Robert Jordan, addiction counselor and men’s program director at The Extension.
Several states have banned the sale of kratom, although it is legal in Georgia. It is unclear whether the federal ban will take place Friday as scheduled or at a later time.