Should Ascension Parish ban kratom? Several commenters weigh in during meeting

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Kratom, shown in a USA Today Network file photo, is a plant which grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

The introduction of an ordinance to regulate the sale and use of kratom drew several commenters, both for and against, to the Ascension Parish Council meeting held Aug. 4 at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, kratom can be taken as a pill, crushed and smoked, brewed as a tea, or chewed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website warns consumers not to use kratom, which grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

"FDA is concerned that kratom, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence," the site stated.

An organization called the American Kratom Association, which advocates to protect kratom consumers, included information on the Ascension Parish meeting on its Louisiana page of its website.

A suggested template to email council members included: "You probably hadn't heard about kratom before, but safe and pure kratom is consumed by millions of Americans and thousands of Louisiana citizens to help with pain management, as an alternative to coffee, or to help avoid using much more powerful substances like pain killers. 

Please look at the science of kratom and see how kratom has helping millions of Americans, including me. Banning and criminalizing kratom in your Parish only rewards bad vendors who will sell untested products possibly mixed with things like fentanyl."

A Reddit user on the Louisiana sub-Reddit also shared information from the site.

"Outlawing another plant is the last thing we need to do to make things better. It's also important because, if passed in Ascension, other parishes will likely follow in their footsteps by proposing bans of their own," the user wrote.

As Chair John Cagnolatti explained, the introduced ordinances would not be discussed or voted on by members during the meeting. The items would reappear on the agenda for the next meeting, which is set for Aug. 18 in Gonzales.

Tiffany Cooper of The Grove Recovery, which has locations in Sorrento and Baton Rouge, said she has seen both ravages and benefits of kratom.

"Unfortunately, I have seen many children in different high schools coming to our facility at The Grove," Cooper said.

Melissa Vidrine shared the story of her late son, Daniel, who she said died of acute toxicity from kratom use.

"Kratom is a public health and safety problem and will only get worse," Vidrine said while holding a framed photograph of her son.

Paul Landry, who serves on the Iberia Parish Council, said he has been selling kratom for about four years.

"In our area - I can't speak for yours - it's just not a problem. People I see come are using it for relief in pain, some for energy, things like that," Landry said.

Todd Tullier of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office followed after many commenters. He said he was a 27-year veteran of the department and a lifelong parish resident.

"Not from California, as some of our special guests who have come with the American Kratom Association, which stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if kratom continues to be outlawed. It's outlawed in 31 countries, six states, and multiple counties and cities nationwide in the United States alone," Tullier said.

He went on to say the goal is not to criminalize individuals for kratom use. 

"We just don't want to see it sold in the stores here in our parish," he said. "Some type of regulation needs to be done."