TN Kratom confusion moves from legislature to law enforcement

A provision in Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislation dealing with opioid abuse caused considerable argument in the General Assembly over whether Kratom should be made illegal in Tennessee – and considerable confusion among law enforcement officers remains after the House and Senate finally reached a compromise in passing the measure, reports WSMV.

The Senate at one point voted for a total ban while the House voted to leave Kratom unrestricted under state law. Under the final version, Kratom remains legal to purchase and possess in its “natural form” for persons over the age of 21.

When Narayan Rabindranath purchased Kratom earlier this month, his lawyer said he bought the kind he knew was legal. That’s why he never thought he’d end up in jail for it.

“It’s unreasonable, unfair, it’s un-American, really,” said Jesse Lords, who is representing Rabindranath.

Kratom comes from a plant in southeast Asia. Advocates say the herbal supplement reduces pain and boosts energy. Critics claim Kratom has addictive properties and can even act like an opioid.

…“Natural form” means dried, cut and sifted Kratom leaf or raw Kratom leaf powder, according to the new state law.

But this month Rabindranath, 30, landed in jail, charged with felony possession of a Schedule I drug after police found powdered Kratom in his car, according to a report filed by Millersville Police. Rabindranath’s attorney maintains police found botanical, natural Kratom in his client’s car.

“It’s absolutely garbage,” Lords said. “No question about it. Completely garbage.”

In January, a man named James Gray was cited for simple of possession of “Schedule I” Kratom, according to the ticket issued by the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department.

But Kratom in its natural form is not listed as a Schedule I drug, according to Matthew Parriott, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“Is this a confusing law?” asked reporter Alanna Autler.

“It is,” said Portland Police Chief Anthony Heavner.

Heaver said he thought Kratom was illegal in Tennessee before Haslam signed the latest bill last week.

When it comes to Kratom, investigators face a problem.

“It is beyond the scope of current forensic capabilities – in Tennessee and elsewhere – to determine if the active ingredient is naturally or synthetically derived,” said Josh Devine, a spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Heavner said that’s why officers must rely on discretion.

“Unless it’s labeled natural form, how’s my officer to tell?” he said.

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