TUPELO • Lee County supervisors will consider a ban on the controversial herbal product kratom, but not until further study and a public hearing.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent Tammy Reynolds appeared before the Board of Supervisors Monday to request a ban on the sale and possession of kratom, a product they described as dangerous and addictive.

Reynolds said kratom mimics other illegal drugs and can interact with other substances in dangerous ways.

“People are supplementing their opioid use with kratom,” Reynolds said.

Kratom is derived from the leaves of a tropical tree in southeast Asia and is variously sold in powder, liquid and capsule form.

Lee County supervisors indicated they will review a draft ordinance at their next meeting and will set a public hearing date at that time.

A number of surrounding counties and municipalities have imposed similar bans, with the encouragement of local law enforcement, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and a group of kratom opponents based in Lowndes County.

Kratom supporters say it is a safe and effective painkiller and can even help alleviate withdrawal symptoms for opiate addiction. Reynolds dismissed these claims.

“No matter who you are, you should not be treating your pain out of a gas station,” Reynolds said.

Locally, some gas stations stock products derived from kratom, though many of these products contain other additives and none of them are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

After Monroe County recently banned kratom, a local man there told supervisors kratom products sold in gas stations should be distinguished from kratom leaves, which he uses to brew a tea.

Reynolds said MBN officials believe they have linked kratom to 11 drug overdose deaths in the state.

Of those 11 deaths, nine involved the presence of other drugs. Only two of those overdose deaths are claimed as the result of ingesting kratom alone, with one death in Hinds County and another in Perry County, according to Reynolds.

Kratom is currently legal in the United States at the federal level, but the FDA has cautioned that the substance may be dangerous.

The FDA warns “that kratom, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.”

Kratom supporters have disputed the FDA’s analysis.

Legislation to ban kratom statewide in Mississippi was introduced during the most recent legislative session, but it died in committee.

Under questioning by supervisors, Reynolds said she hasn’t directly lobbied local lawmakers on the issue, but is certain she’ll have their backing for a statewide ban.

“I can guarantee you without speaking to them they’ll be on board with it,” Reynolds said.

In the region, Arkansas and Alabama have imposed statewide bans on kratom.

Other states, including Utah and Georgia, have imposed laws regulating kratom but not banning it.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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