ROCKINGHAM — Some North Carolina business would be forced to shut down or move out of state if a recently-filed bill makes it through the General Assembly.
Last week, Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, introduced legislation that would classify the herb kratom as a controlled substance.
“The bill would make kratom illegal in N.C., a Schedule I drug like heroin,” said Joshua Fulton, owner of Coastline Kratom in Southport. “It wouldn’t put us out of business, but would force us to move. Fortunately, we’re very close to the South Carolina border, so we would move our operations into South Carolina.”
Fulton said he first became aware of the Asian herb early last year.
“I had the impression that a lot of people had great results from it,” he told the Daily Journal in an email late Friday, “especially people (who) were trying to withdraw from heroin.”
Fulton began selling the plant product last September and said “business has taken off since then.”
“We fill at least 50 orders a day through our website,” he added.
Fulton said if the bill passes, it would mean the loss of five jobs from his company alone.
“We also know several other business owners who would be forced to shut down or go across lines,” he said. “We’d estimate that this ban would cost North Carolina at least 50 to 100 jobs. Of course, probably the majority of those people have families, so far more than just 50 to 100 people would be effected.”
Several states have already banned kratom.
“Alabama also did just last week,” Fulton said. “It was rushed through very quickly in Alabama, which has people in North Carolina nervous. Vermont and Arkansas have made certain alkaloids of kratom (hydroxymitragynine) illegal but not the whole plant.”
McInnis said “It’s not anywhere close to being on the floor,” and expects the health committee to determine the future of the bill next week.
According to a 2013 article in Scientific American, the leaves of kratom, which is in the coffee family, are used to relieve pain as an opiate substitute.
But because of psychoactive properties, it has been banned in several countries and listed as a “drug of concern” by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The article recounts the tale of a man who started making a tea to help with withdrawal symptoms from coming off opioids. He had a seizure and wound up at Massachusetts General Hospital after mixing in the FDA-approved stimulant modafinil.
“After his stay at Mass General, he went off kratom cold turkey,” said Edward Boyer, professor of emergency medicine and director of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told the magazine. “The fascinating thing is that his only withdrawal symptom was a runny noise. As for his opioid withdrawal, we learned that kratom blunts that process awfully, awfully well.”
McInnis told the Daily Journal earlier this week that state medical records show kratom has been discovered during the autopsies of 23 people in the past six years. However, some of those also included other illegal and prescription drugs.
The senator fears kratom could become the next big epidemic in the state, comparing it to the rise of crack cocaine and crystal meth.
Fulton said he feels “people need to really look into this and not have a knee-jerk reaction.”
“It really seems like our state legislatures are looking for something to point to and say, “We did something!” When in reality, they should be tackling more important issues like their own wasteful spending and the general inefficiencies of government.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.