Legislature considers legalizing a different kind of weed

The kratom plant is also known as mitragyna speciosa. (Adobe Stock photo)

Marijuana reform advocates have little hope that Indiana lawmakers will take up cannabis legislation this year, but one Republican legislator wants to legalize a lesser-known plant native to Southeast Asia that is marketed as an energy booster, a natural painkiller and an effective treatment for opioid withdrawal.

The House Committee on Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development heard testimony Wednesday on House Bill 1500, which would permit the sale of kratom, an herbal extract derived from the leaves of a tropical evergreen tree.

When consumed, the plant produces stimulant effects in low doses and sedative effects in high doses, and recovering addicts testified Wednesday that it has helped them ween off their opioid addiction.

“Kratom isn’t going to completely remove those withdrawal symptoms, but it will lower them significantly,” said John DeLao, a University of Indianapolis student who says the substance helped him recover from his heroin addiction nearly a decade ago. “That little bit of less withdrawal could be the reason somebody ends up getting off of it.”

But some health experts caution that the plant has addictive properties and its usage, in some cases, can lead to psychotic symptoms and cause patients to relapse.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists kratom as a “drug of concern,” and the Food and Drug Administration has tried to get it labeled as a Schedule 1 drug and has warned people not to use it, saying “it appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse and dependence.”

Bill author Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, argues the substance isn’t addictive and helps people struggling with substance abuse recover from withdrawal, noting that kratom is already legal in 44 states including all of Indiana’s neighboring states. It has been illegal in Indiana since 2014.

“I heard a few people refer to it as a drug. It is not a drug, it is an herbal botanical plant,” Morrison told lawmakers at the conclusion of Wednesday’s hearing.

When asked in an interview whether he felt the same way about marijuana, which is a controlled substance, Morrison cautioned against “making any parallels” between the two plants.

“It’s a completely different substance. It does not have the effect that marijuana has,” Morrison told IBJ.

He also declined to say whether he supported marijuana legalization.

“If we do get [a bill] in front of us, I will certainly listen and take it into consideration,” Morrison said.

The House committee plans to vote on the bill Wednesday with an amendment that would prohibit minors from purchasing the drug and caution pregnant women to consult their physician before consuming it.

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10 thoughts on “Legislature considers legalizing a different kind of weed

  1. I remember 10-15 years ago seeing photos of Kratom addicts injecting that stuff. It was a horrible wave in Germany and people were getting huge ulcers and dying from it, aputations of arms and legs. Now they want to addict our kids on it here in the US? I hope the politicians do some research on it before legalizing something that is just as addictive and deadly as heroin. SMH

  2. Legalize drug use period and open wellness care clinics to help people who ask for help.

    Criminalize exploitive drug pushing for profit and medical malpractice again.

  3. I am not for or against legalization, as I am not a user.

    My question – why is Indiana smarter than 44 other states? Why is Indiana smarter than all of the other states legalizing Marijuana? I don’t get it. Who is in our politicians pockets to keep us behind the times or are we in fact smarter than the rest of the country?

    1. Trouble is we have non users making the decisions for any and all users. They are actually scared and still believe propaganda from the 1920’s – 1930’s. The only reason marijuana was put on Schedule 1 during Nixon’s tenure, he and congress were scared of the ‘youth’ movement. Original efforts for making it illegal were fear of Mexicans in Arizona and Texas. Our god fearing society is mostly afraid of anything and everything.

  4. Legalizing one addictive drug to get off a different addictive drug is no bueno! IMO. Kratom is just a replacement for heroin

    I’m not talking about marijuana.

  5. Indiana is 35th in the nation in overall health, according to the 2022 America’s Health Rankings report and ranks 42nd when it comes to mental health, according to the State of Mental Health in America 2023. Does if make sense to add Kratom and the side effects to a state that is unlikely prepared to help? It seems like instead of solving the problem, our lazy representatives are fine to let you cover up your issues and create more issues with Kratom. I do not believe that legalization of Kratom will help improve our overall health standing in this country.

    Check out this Mayo Clinic link (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/kratom/art-20402171) prior to making Kratom legal. Are we really prepared to treat the multitude of potential side effects? Certainly a state ranked at the bottom of the nation can’t afford the potential health effects of this “alternative”.

  6. “I heard a few people refer to it as a drug. It is not a drug, it is an herbal botanical plant,” Morrison told lawmakers at the conclusion of Wednesday’s hearing.

    Like marijuana, then?

  7. Stupid crazy if this stuff is legalized before medical Marijuana. I am not, never have been a smoker but have utilized the legal strains of delta 8& 9 for pain relief over using advil/Tylenol multiple times a day.
    Regardless of tax revenues how about the MULTIPLE health benefits provided.
    wake up – vote all these clowns out, all on the grift!!!!