Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Agent Lt. Eddie Hawkins explains to the board of supervisors Friday dangers associated with kratom, an addictive product sold at some convenience stores. Supervisors later voted to ban the product.

ABERDEEN – An addictive product available over the counter at some Monroe County convenience and tobacco stores, which can pack the same effect of 13 times of that of morphine, will soon no longer be available. The board of supervisors approved language March 22 to add to a similar ordinance banning kratom in the county.

Representatives from the Crime and Addiction Task Force of the Lowndes County Foundation requested for supervisors to pass the ban. The group previously convinced six other counties and seven cities in North Mississippi to issue kratom bans, and it plans to make the same request to the Aberdeen and Amory boards of aldermen.

“We have documentation where people have $800 a week habits that they’re spending on buying these drugs,” said Lt. Eddie Hawkins of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, who started his career with the Aberdeen Police Department. “People are now changing their drug of choice from the opioid addiction and starting to use this kratom. They’re trading one addiction for another. We’ve had a lot of people say, ‘This is the best drug ever because it helps with our pain,’ but who goes to a gas station to manage their pain?”

Kratom is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, and the agency has not conducted tests on it. It is derived from a tree in southeastern Asia.

“Kratom is the new legal way to get high,” said Dr. Charles Rhea, an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus. “It’s been cleverly promoted as an incense, by written not for human use, and as an energy supplement and by doing this, it has flown under the radar by getting any scrutiny by the FDA or the drug enforcement people.”

He added it’s not picked up by standard drug tests, making it a liability for employers, law enforcement and health care providers.

Hawkins said some stores have kratom products, which also include mood enhancers, on display in cases.

“We’ve got documentation from a store in Tupelo that has been selling this stuff on the books. People can’t afford their habit, so they’re offering them credit. There’s a lady who owes a convenience store $4,800 for purchase of kratom, so she’s taken rings and TVs and everything else like a pawn shop to try to support her addiction to these products,” Hawkins said.

Task force members have worked with Sen. Chuck Younger and Rep. Jeff Smith in trying to pass statewide legislation to ban kratom, but it died in committee during this year’s session. Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, however, have banned the product statewide.

In Mississippi, Hawkins said there were 11 documented deaths last year related to kratom in 2018.

“We actually busted a man that had tablets from a convenience store about three weeks ago, and he was completely climbing the walls,” said Sheriff Cecil Cantrell.

The product was introduced in the United States 10 years ago and in this area three years ago.

“Why is this not at the top? Why does it have to spread all the way down? When it was coming into the country, why did the country not detect all of this so it couldn’t have gotten down to the level it is now,” asked District 5 Supervisor Hosea Bogan.

Hawkins said a group of lobbyists prevented Congress from initiating a ban due to lack of FDA documentation stating kratom is dangerous.

“The slickers are still outslicking the government on what’s going on,” Bogan said.

By the ordinance passing, it was also stated Monroe County residents won’t be able to have kratom shipped to them through online purchases.

The county will publish a notice with the date the countywide ban will go into effect to give store owners time to get rid of the products. County board attorney David Houston will determine the ban’s effective date.

In other business, Monroe County School District Superintendent Scott Cantrell and assistant superintendent thanked the county – from the road crew to 911 to the sheriff’s office – for assisting needs during recent inclement weather and a precautionary lockdown at Hamilton Attendance Center.

Sheila Brand and Rebecca Hudson appeared before the board to represent Sally Kate Winters Family Services. In the past three years annually, between three and 14 children from Monroe County who went through circumstances such as child abuse or neglect were helped by the agency.

Brand asked for the county’s consideration for financial support and for help connecting her with fire departments to serve as safe places as well.

The board approved to advertise for a new paver for the road department. County fire coordinator Terry Tucker said he received notice the county received supplemental RIFTAP funds, which will go towards the purchase of a new fire truck for the Hatley Fire Department.

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