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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

St. Charles County to Weigh Kratom Ban

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 10:25 AM

click to enlarge Kratom is for sale at CBD Kratom in Tower Grove South, as well as many other locations throughout the metro area. - KELLY GLUECK
  • Kratom is for sale at CBD Kratom in Tower Grove South, as well as many other locations throughout the metro area.
St. Charles County wants to harsh your mellow.

Steve Ehlmann, the county executive for St. Charles County, announced this morning that he'll be asking the county council to ban kratom and "related substances." He plans to introduce a bill to that effect next week.

As the RFT detailed in a January 2019 cover story, kratom is an herbal supplement credited with giving users a feeling of euphoria, or even just an all-around pick-me-up. Naturally, its use has skyrocketed in recent years, with numerous shops opening around the St. Louis metro area that specialize in selling the stuff, along with its suddenly ubiquitous cousin, CBD.

And since for every action that gets you high, by the laws of physics there must be an equal and opposite reaction to ban it, the feds have had kratom in their sights for a few years now. In November 2016, the FDA issued an advisory suggesting 36 deaths across the U.S. had been linked to kratom. And while federal efforts in today's highly dysfunctional capitol have sputtered, six states have stepped in with bans, with other state laws pending.

Missouri is not among them, something St. Charles County would like to change. Ehlmann says in his press release that the county medical examiner reports that kratom has "played a role in at least nine deaths" in its borders alone since 2017.

“In St. Charles County, we don’t think a warning is enough,” Ehlmann says. “While this is certainly a global issue that is being addressed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), FDA and individual states, including Missouri, it’s hitting home. Local governmental bodies can speed up the process of making this drug illegal by taking a stand now. That is why I am urging the Council to move forward and ban this substance in St. Charles County.”

As our 2017 story detailed, kratom does activate the same opioid receptors as drugs like oxycodone and morphine. Critically, however, kratom does not depress respiration.

"That's a key difference, medically," the RFT's Ryan Krull wrote at the time. "According to Mothers against Prescription Drug Abuse, the cause of death from opioid overdose is 'almost always' respiratory failure."

Still, at the time, local public health workers wanted to study the matter more, Krull wrote:
Locally, Suzanne McCune with St. Louis County's Office of the Medical Examiner said that she could find no cases of kratom's active ingredient, mitragynine, being included in a recorded cause of death in the past two years.

However, it was only very recently that "kratom, designer opioids, fentanyl analogs, bath salts and a host of other chemicals, legal and illegal" became part of a standard toxicology panel in the county. Previously, investigators didn't search for evidence of such substances unless they had special cause to look for it. In January 2017, the office began using a new instrument to provide a more comprehensive analysis that will, as a default, include kratom.
Those screenings, apparently, are responsible for kratom now showing up in local corpses — and are giving rise to efforts like the one in St. Charles County.

Ehlmann says the county council could approve the ban as early as May 28.

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