Bipartisan bill would block sale of herbal anti-opioid supplement to minors

Dec 1, 2017

You may have never heard of it, but two state lawmakers want to block the sale of a herbal substance called kratom to minors.

Canandaigua State Sen. Pam Helming and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle of Irondequoit say regulating the sale and usage of kratom is critical in the effort to protect young people from addiction.

Two state lawmakers see the herbal supplement kratom as a gateway drug to addiction.

"This legislation shows that we take seriously the addiction crisis that is plaguing our families and communities instead of just paying lip service to it," said Helming.

“Substance abuse is a scourge plaguing communities across our state, spanning all socioeconomic backgrounds and devastating countless families and individuals both young and old," said Morelle. "Regulating the sale and usage of kratom is a critical step toward protecting our young people from the perils of addiction."

Kratom, which is sometimes called herbal speedball or ketum, is made from the leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. It contains opioid compounds and some people have reportedly used it as an herbal alternative to treat withdrawal cravings caused by addiction to opioids or other substances.

The product is sold in New York and several other states without age restrictions. Helming said she first learned about it this fall at a seminar on the opioid crisis.                  

"Some of the slides that I saw during the presentation showed the substance available at popular stores where our teens tend to shop," she said. There it was, between the socks and the hats."

Helming said her concern is that the supplement has addictive tendencies and could potentially serve as a gateway drug to other addictive substances.

Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration moved to ban the sale of kratom and classify it as a Schedule 1 drug, but that plan was delayed to allow for further research.

Helming and Morelle's proposed bill would direct the New York State Health Department to conduct a study on the drug's benefits and risks.