​Senate bill limits sales of opioid-like plant to minors

Posted June 14, 2016

— A scaled-back version of a bill restricting the use of kratom, a plant said to have opioid-like properties, cleared the Senate Health Care Committee on Tuesday.

Kratom, sometimes called ketom, is a plant native to Southeast Asia. Proponents of its use says it can help wean people addicted to heroin and prescription opioids from their addictions. But Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, said he is concerned about its growing use in the state.

"Some states have outright bans, some have taken no action and some have landed on keeping it out of the hands of minors," McInnis told the committee.

His bill takes that middle route, he said.

As originally drafted, the bill would have banned the sale of kratom. The bill committee members passed Tuesday would restrict the sale to those under age 18, and trying to purchase the drug would be an infraction rather than a misdemeanor or a felony.

The bill also calls for a study of kratom to decide whether the state should consider further restrictions. The same study would explore the use of "whippets," a method of getting high by using nitrous oxide, frequently tapping gas that is used as an aerosol propellant in food products.

"We're going to look at this very hard to see what medicinal value it has," Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, said of the kratom study.

The measure next heads to the Senate floor.


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