With barely any notification, the ordinance committee in Livingston Parish, Louisiana convened on January 31, 2023 to discuss a potential kratom ban.
Two weeks prior, the committee seemed to lean toward kratom regulation rather than a ban. Even Councilman Jeff Ard, whose brother Sheriff Jason Ard has been vocally in favor of criminalizing kratom consumers, said, “I don’t really think we were just in here to straight up ban it. We wanted to gain knowledge on it, understand it.”
This time, the committee changed its tune as well as a few of its members. Coucilman Ard as well as two members who made rational statements in the last meeting were gone, Tracy Girlinghouse and Garry Talbert. Councilman Shane Mack, who expressed the desire to criminalize kratom consumers remained on the committee. Still the committee seemed split. One councilman asked, “If you ban alcohol, will that keep people from drinking?” and a councilwoman who said she was from the naturopathic world said she needed to see more information.
Despite the short notice, two local vendors as well as the executive director of the American Kratom Association (AKA) spoke in favor of regulation instead of a ban.
Paul Schexnaydre, a kratom vendor and combat veteran, once again gave a passionate, heartfelt speech about how kratom helped him heal from substance use disorder and his PTSD. “I would show you crime and destruction from kratom, but I couldn’t find any. If kratom is such a menace to society, then why are are you council members just finding out what kratom is?”
Sheriff Ard was present at the meeting and spoke along with two of his officers, Sergent of Narcotics Cody Jarreau and Sergent of Criminal Patrol Jeremy McCullen. Sheriff Ard claimed kratom is often present during “drug busts” and there’s not a statute on it, and that’s why it’s not reported as a problem. Sergent Jarreau compared kratom effects to amphetamines and opiates, and said it caused “loss of consciousness in some cases”. “What we see on the streets is people using kratom to enhance the effects of illegal drugs.” He left it absolutely unclear as to how that would cease by criminalizing kratom consumers.
Livingston Parish Coroner Ron Coe, MD was present at the meeting in apparent coalition with the police, though he hesitated when asked if he was for regulation or a ban. But he told the committee, “I think it is safer than most opiates..but by itself it has caused death.” He presented a paper to the committee that he claimed showed 3 kratom-alone deaths out of 1,000 blood samples studied, likely a 2019 study published in Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
When asked how kratom alone can cause a death, Dr. Coe answered, “It probably has a respiratory depressive effect, like narcotics.” This is inconsistent with a recent review that concluded, “It is evident that kratom is not a traditional opioid and has both adrenergic and opioidlike toxicities, with the first much more likely to occur in a dose-related fashion than the latter.”
When asked by Councilman Randy Delatte, “Should we ban, Sheriff, just sale, or also possession, is what I’m asking?” Ard replied, “I’m pretty easy. I’d say, ban it all. If you gonna do it, do it the right way.”
“I agree. I agree. I agree,” replied Delatte.
Last month, Kratom Science learned from podcast guest and police corruption whistleblower Jon Griggs that Sheriff Ard received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from construction contractor Smith, Tank and Steel. The company sponsors Life House, a chain of nonprofit Christian rehabilitation centers. In its FAQ, Life House states that it is “not a medical, psychiatric, or psychological program”. Life House recruits new members from the court system, stating “We have developed a relationship with probation departments and will work with the legal system on your behalf.” While in the program, participants “will be unable to continue their current job or obtain new employment”. Participants are “required and expected to fully participate in our labor and vocational training” and “expected to participate in various community service projects” and “will have various opportunities for job training and gainful employment through our partnerships”, but “Job placement timing will be at the discretion of the program managers”.
It’s unclear whether Smith, Tank and Steel is receiving unpaid labor through this program. But it is clear that Sheriff Ard is receiving campaign funds from Smith, Tank and Steel. And it is clear that Life House new members because of criminalization of people who use illegal drugs.
When Councilman Shane Mack opened the floor for further comments, Paul Schexnaydre spoke again. “I think this is ludicrous. You got police officers standing up here reading paperwork that have no clue what they’re talking about,” he said as Dr. Coe and other officers walked out.
“Let’s not disrespect anybody in this chamber right here right now,” said Councilman Mack.
“I’m a law abiding citizen. You’re just about to make me a criminal, is all I got to say. And when I get arrested, and tell my little two children, I gotta go do jail time, it’s because of y’all, and that’s ridiculous. I’ll leave this for you too. Life House Rehab, and you Jason Ard.”
“You’re probably gonna need to leave right now,” said Mack.
Mack said at the conclusion that the kratom ordinance would be introduced on the next Livingston Parish Council agenda.
UPDATE: Following the meeting, police apparently followed Paul Schexnaydre home, according to his wife, posting as /u/SacredRTC/ on the subreddit r/smallbatchkratom. This post appeared January 31, 2023 at 8:57pm EST. As of 6:50pm EST on February 1, the /u/SacredRTC/ has been suspended.
Corruption against Kratom. My husband exposed corruption that the police ofc. Jason Ard is behind that also involves the council member pictured and a handful of others. He left paper work proving their affiliation and accepted bribes. After the meeting, the sheriff followed my husband.
My husband got very angry at this meeting because he heard them talking about how this is already pre-planned and the hearing is not so we can be heard, just so we think we are being heard. He went up there with ammo, he fought one hell of a fight and then when it was over he was so angry he went up there and told them what he needed to say and left the stack of paperwork proving corruption and affiliations and bribes. He was told he needed to leave and upon leaving he realized one of the sheriffs that were there followed him all the way almost to our neighborhood. This is about to be a huge thing. I’m hoping not another Marshall price. Please spread the word because it looks like we’re about to be up against Giants that just silence or make people disappear when they are in their way.