Proposed bill would make herbal supplement Kratom legal in WI

An herbal supplement illegal in Wisconsin is back on the agenda for Assembly Republicans.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 5:10 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 6:01 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - An herbal supplement illegal in Wisconsin is back on the agenda for Assembly Republicans.

Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. The leaves are often used to self-treat conditions like pain, anxiety and opioid-use disorder.

Republican lawmakers tried legalizing Kratom last year but held off on a vote amid criticism from law enforcement. Both the FDA and DEA have issued warnings about using Kratom.

Kratom can be swallowed as a pill, brewed in tea or inhaled through smoke.

According to estimates, 1.7 million Americans, 12 and older, used Kratom in 2021.

In small doses, Kratom acts as a stimulant which is like caffeine. In high doses, it has more of a sedative effect which is like narcotic pain medicines.

“We think it’s a great alternative to address some of the drug problems we have. It replicates opioids without having the addictive effects. So for folks that have chronic pain, chronic issues, we think it represents a great alternative,” said Representative John Macco, R-Ledgeview.

Proposed Assembly Bill 393, introduced in part by Rep. Macco, would make Kratom legal in Wisconsin with proper branding and requirements to make sure it isn’t laced with other products.

Under current state law, possession of Kratom is a misdemeanor, but creating or distributing it makes it a felony.

Rep. Macco said that needs to change. Kratom is legal in most other states. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to provide an easy, over-the-counter product that folks would be able to have access to,” said Rep. Macco.

The FDA has not approved any prescription or over-the-counter drug product containing Kratom.

The DEA lists it as a drug and chemical of concern.

According to the CDC, in 2017 Kratom was linked to 91 unintentional overdose deaths containing a mixture of drugs. The Badger State Sheriffs’ Association opposes the bill.

The president of the association, Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, said Kratom is not federally regulated and is linked to psychotic episodes, overdose and intoxicated driving deaths.

In a letter, Schmidt writes, “At a time when so many Wisconsin communities are dealing with the devastating effects of opioid abuse, why would we legalize a dangerous substance, with links to opioid addiction and death, that lacks any medical or FDA-approved uses?”

Rep. Macco believes with regulation, the herbal supplement can be used effectively.

“It replaces opioids. It’s much better than an opioid for managing pain,” said Rep. Macco. “And secondly, let’s keep in mind, it has that policing component to the bill. So it all would still need to be fully vetted and regulated.”

The bill will continue moving through the state legislature.