On December 28, 2018, a Georgia House of Representatives study committee convened to discuss kratom and take public comments. Rep. Dewayne Hill chaired the committee, and sat on a panel with other GA representatives Michael Caldwell, Karen Mathiak, and Vernon Jones (who openly uses and advocates for kratom), as well as State Senator Jeff Mullins.
Twenty one members of the public got to speak for a short period of time, including Joe Turner, who we featured on Kratom Stories back in October. Many told stories about their history of pain, injury, disease, prescription medication and other drug addiction, the hell of going through the American medical system, and how kratom has helped them live normal, happy lives.
Three members of the public spoke out against kratom. One was an administrator of an outpatient rehabilitation program, John Kelly. In general those in the rehabilitation field are interested in helping patients achieve 100% sobriety from all drugs, and thus have a vested interest in a binary view of drugs as bad and no-drugs as good.
Kelly brought along a participant in his program who had been a heroin addict, switched to kratom, and became addicted. He told the committee he was using a staggering two kilos of kratom per month, which amounts to about 2.3 ounces per day. A vast majority of people in the kratom community see this as an atypical case, but one that can be prevented through careful medical research of legal kratom, and will only be exacerbated through prohibition.
Catoosa County Coroner Vanita Hullander also spoke and seemed to be against the use of kratom. Hullander became known to the kratom community in 2017 when she claimed there were 17 deaths in Georgia were kratom-related.
It was hard to understand her point on any one topic as she was all over the place. She admitted to the committee, however, that a death of a man she oversaw, who had kratom but also fentanyl and other opiates in his system, was from a combination of drugs, not kratom alone. She also said she wanted kratom controlled and studied.
All three who spoke against kratom called for it to be regulated and controlled instead of banned.
As Rep. Mathiak stated, and Rep. Caldwell concurred, “I don’t think we need to fill the jails up with kratom users.”
The members of the kratom community who spoke did the community a great service. Lawmakers need to see kratom users as a diverse group of ordinary Americans who are simply trying to use a supplement to help them through pain, and illness, and life in general, not as a party drug, and not irresponsibly.
Face to face, polite politics like this can work across many issues if the public takes the time to engage productively.
More and more civic participation like this in the Georgia House on December 28 will bring us closer to having a truly representative government that follows the science.