St. Johns County decides not to move forward with ban on kratom

After hearing nearly 20 speakers defend their right to use kratom, St. Johns County Commissioners decided Tuesday to defer to the state for any regulation of the plant-based substance.

The request to consider a local ban of kratom — which the FDA has identified as a “drug of concern” because its pain-relieving properties are similar to those of opioids — came from the St. Johns County Polydrug Task Force, headed by legislative chair Denver Cook.

After an overview of the drug and potential legislation the board of commissioners could pursue at a local level by Senior Associate County Attorney Rebecca Lavie, public comment followed.

Nineteen residents, one after the next, spoke about the health benefits they’d received from kratom, from fibromyalgia to anxiety relief. Many said they’d had no problems with addiction. Others were concerned prohibiting the sale of the substance in St. Johns County could create a black market.

Commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of tabling any action until at least May, following the state Legislative session. But it seems unlikely the issue will resurface, at least in the form of a ban.

“I see no reason whatsoever to pursue any kind of ban,” Commissioner Henry Dean said.

Commissioner Jeb Smith said he wasn’t convinced legislation at the local level would be an effective use of resources.

Commission Chair Paul Waldron said he would support an age restriction for the sale of kratom but it might be easier to follow the state’s lead on that, as well as labeling guidelines.

Jeremiah Blocker, the newest member of the board of commissioners, said that even as a former drug enforcement prosecutor he could empathize with those with chronic pain.

“I am not interested in taking away the treatment you need,” Blocker said.


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