Ascension Parish Council bans kratom sales in parish

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
In a USA Today Network file photo, kratom products are shown in a store in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Kratom is sold in powder and pill form.

The Ascension Parish Council approved a ban of kratom sales during the Aug. 18 meeting held in Gonzales.

The parish will become the first in Louisiana to prohibit the sale of kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, which is a tropical evergreen tree native to southeast Asia.

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 states.

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

Council members originally proposed restrictions on the consumption and possession of kratom, but ultimately decided to focus only on sales.

Under the new regulation, a parish vendor, seller, or retailer could lose their business license for selling kratom.

Penalties for a first-time offense include a fine of not more than $500, a jail sentence of not more than six months, or both. For a second offense, the penalties are a fine of not more than $1,000, a jail sentence of not more than six months, or both. Third offense penalties include a fine of not more than $1,500, a jail sentence of not more than six months, or both.

In a USA Today Network file photo, kratom is shown in a store in Murfreesboro, Tenn. store.

The council first introduced an ordinance to regulate the sale and use of kratom during the Aug. 4 meeting held at the courthouse in Donaldsonville, which attracted many public speakers.

During both August regular council meetings, both supporters of kratom and opponents spoke publicly, some giving emotional testimonies. 

During the discussion at the Aug. 18 meeting, Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment said he supported a ban until kratom is regulated by the state or federal government.

"I can't not be supportive of this if it saves one life, and it saves the ruining of a family, kids, or marriage. I don't mind stepping out as Ascension Parish to be the leader of anything. That is what we are about here," Cointment said, drawing applause from the audience.

Kratom has been banned in six states: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Chair John Cagnolatti said he would be in contact with state and federal officials.

"It's something that came to us that should have been handled on the state or even federal level before it got to the local level. It's almost crazy that we're having to address this," Cagnolatti said during the meeting discussion.

Aaron Lawler of District 7 added that he would like to see a resolution asking state government leaders to take action.