By Alyssa Schnugg
Oxford leaders are considering a proposed ban on products sold containing Kratom, a tree from Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have mind-altering effects.
Oxford Police Interim Chief Jeff McCutchen presented the proposed ordinance to the Oxford Board of Aldermen Tuesday for a first reading.
He told the board that there have been at least 11 deaths in North Mississippi where Kratom has been found in postmortem blood tests.
“Doesn’t mean it was the primary cause (of death) but it was involved,” McCutchen said. “We (OPD) had a death case we worked recently where Kratom was found in their system.”
The Mitragyna Speciosa tree, where Kratom comes from, has been used in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years to relieve pain. The leaves are often chewed or crushed and brewed as a tea. However, now synthetic versions in the form of pills, tablet, liquids and gum are being sold online and at gas stations, tobacco stores and other businesses.
“The dosages we’ve seen in those products are all over the place,” McCutchen said.
Trade names selling the synthetic Kratom include Krathom, Kakuam, Ketum, Kratum, Ithang, Thang, Thom, Biak, Biak-Biak, Mambog, Super K, Life Force K, K-Chill, Herbal Speedball, K-shot and others.
Itawamba, Union, Monroe, Lowndes, Alcorn and Tishomingo counties have banned the substance, as have the cities of Fulton, New Albany, Mantachie and Pontotoc.
During the meeting, Aldermen Mark Huelse said that the plant can have medicinal uses and mentioned ongoing research by former Ole Miss professor Christopher McCurdy, an expert on Kratom and who studies the use of Kratom to treat opioid withdrawal syndrome.
McCutchen said the ordinance would only ban the synthetic products being sold locally in stores.
However, the proposed ordinance presented Tuesday reads: The ordinance would ban anyone from using, possessing, purchasing, distributing, manufacturing or selling products containing Kratom. Products sold as “Kratom.” or any part of the plant Mitragyna Speciosa, Mitragyna Speciosa Korth, Mitragyna Speciosa leaf extract, Mitragyna Speciosa extract, whether growing or not, and any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, capsule, pill, powder, liquid, vegetative material, mixture, or preparation of the plant, including but not limited to any product containing Mitragynine, Hydroxymitragynine, or 7-hydroxymitragynine.”
McCutchen said while some studies may show medical benefits of the plant itself, the Federal Drug Administration says the synthetic products being sold over the counter have not been proven to have any known medical benefits.
A public hearing and second reading of the ordinance will be held at 5 p.m. on May 21 before the Board of Aldermen at City Hall. The entire proposed ordinance amendment can be viewed online at: https://www.boardpaq.com/pdfViewer?c=vdGRucaEoDKKu5%2fmOP6Rgw%3d%3d.