Kratom capsules in Albany, N.Y.

Kratom capsules in Albany, N.Y.

Credit: AP/Mary Esch

A new bill would ban the sales of kratom in Georgia. 

Kratom, a drug made from the leaves of the Southeast Asian tree, is unregulated in Georgia. Lawmakers say it can be purchased at gas stations or convenience stores despite potentially dangerous side effects. 

House Bill 181 would classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are considered dangerous with no medical use, and cannot be researched for medical purposes. Heroin and and LSD are Schedule 1 drugs, and people who possess a Schedule 1 drug can be charged with a felony.

Opponents of the bill say kratom has helped them manage pain, anxiety, insomnia, and opioid addiction recovery. The drug has not been widely researched for these purposes. Some opponents also raised concerns over criminalizing people over kratom use while jails are already overcrowded. 

Rep. Tanya Miller (D - Atlanta) pointed out in a committee hearing for the bill that there is bipartisan support for a federal law to protect access to kratom and regulate its quality.

Rep. Rick Townsend (R - Brunswick) said he sponsored the legislation after his constituents reached out to him with concerns over deaths related to kratom.

"This issue is really a constituent-based issue where we have problems down in Glynn County where I had one parent who lost his son who committed suicide while on kratom," Townsend said. "We had another parent whose son went through the halfway house for addiction recovery and got hooked on kratom there and ended up in a mental health facility for psychotic behavior. So, its a dangerous drug and it should be off the streets."

Several parents testified at a committee hearing for the bill that their children died after taking kratom. 

Under current Georgia Law, kratom is legal but not regulated, as it is not controlled under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. It is often unclear how much kratom is actually in kratom products. Six states have banned kratom, and others have labeling regulations for the drug. 

Townsend said that labeling regulations don't go far enough. 

"That's overdue," he said. "They should have done that five years ago, and they don't adhere to the standards that they set."

The bill was not voted on in committee.