By Alyssa Schnugg
Oxford leaders are once again considering a proposed ban on synthetic products claiming to contain Kratom, a tree from Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have mind-altering effects.
In May, Oxford Police Interim Chief Jeff McCutchen presented the proposed ordinance to the Oxford Board of Aldermen for the first reading; however, during that meeting, Alderman 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.
The Board agreed to table to ordinance until police and city officials could do more research on Kratom and speak to McCurdy about his findings.
On Tuesday, an amended ordinance was presented to the Board for its consideration by OPD Maj. Sheridan Maiden.
He told the board that there has been an “uptick” in North Mississippi where Kratom has been found in postmortem blood tests from people who have overdosed on a combination of drugs.
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.
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.
The ordinance would only ban the synthetic products being sold locally in stores.
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.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said should the FDA approve the use of controlled medication containing Kratom in the future, the Board of Alderman would re-evaluate and update the ordinance at that time.
A public hearing and second reading of the ordinance will be held at 5 p.m. on Aug. 7 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.