The Pennsylvania House on Monday voted 197-3 to ban the sale of kratom to minors after earlier legislative moves stripped from the bill safeguards for adults who use the substance taken from a tropical evergreen tree.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, a Montgomery County Republican, said she was frustrated the adult-targeted measures were taken out of the bill in a committee. She said they would be contained in a future bill.
Consumed in powder, capsule and beverage forms, kratom is a largely unregulated, but widely used substance. It can be mixed with things that make it more harmful or have unpredictable effects if used in improper amounts.
“We have seen children in the ER,” Pennycuick said. “We have had children who have had seizures.”
Kratom is taken from leaves of mitragyna speciosa, a tree native to South East Asia and nearby regions. It has become popular for a variety of uses including coffee-like stimulation, reducing anxiety and pain reduction.
Mac Haddow, senior fellow on public policy for the American Kratom Association, said an estimated 11 million to 15 million people in the U.S. use kratom.
While kratom is not listed as a controlled substance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against its use out of concern it could increase risks of addiction, abuse and dependence.
Haddow said the association supported the bill’s ban on sales to children because use of it is a decision that should be made in consultation with parents.
Haddow said the FDA is continuing a review of the substance. Its use has been banned in six states — but Haddow said all six bans were put in place prior to 2017 with information from the FDA that was outdated.
Another eight states have adopted provisions that largely mirror those in a Kratom Consumer Protection Act backed by the association.
Pennsylvania, like the majority of states, has no regulation of kratom in place.
An earlier version of the House bill that contained safeguards like those backed by the association was amended in committee, and the safeguards were dropped.
Haddow outlined concepts the kratom industry would like to see in Pennsylvania and elsewhere:
• A requirement that containers of kratom sold to the public bear proper labels that are specific about its contents.
• A prohibition against adulterating kratom with substances that render the product dangerous.
• A requirement that levels of alkaloids — compounds that are present in kratom — not be altered in ways that raise them above naturally occurring levels.
• A requirement that solvents used to get kratom to a proper alkaloid level be FDA-approved. Haddow said such a requirement would prohibit processors from using potentially dangerous industrial chemicals.
• A requirement for the use of government-approved manufacturing processes.
Republican Rep. Kathy Rapp of Warren County, who chairs the House Health Committee, said Republican members of the committee discussed kratom several times before eventually passing the bill June 13.
According to Rapp, Pennycuick — an Army veteran who flew helicopters in Afghanistan — has said she believes kratom can help veterans with PTSD.
The original version set the age threshold for purchasing kratom at 21. One reason it was lowered to 18, Rapp said, was “there are a lot of people who believe that once you are military age, you should be able to make decisions as an adult.”
The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, gives the state Department of Health responsibility for enforcement.
It calls for fines of $100 to $500 for a first-offense violation of the ban on sales to minors. Repeat offenses would escalate fine amounts to as much as $3,000 to $5,000.
A spokesperson for the department said it was reviewing the amended version of the bill.
Source: Berkshire mont