BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The herbal extract kratom is once again being targeted by some state lawmakers in hopes of banning its availability over the counter.
Those who depend on the substance for personal use and for business are fighting back.
Kratom makes up about 75% of sales at the Cannabis Candy Shop & Kratom, and with five stores throughout the Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg, the company would be devastated by a ban.
“I do this for a living,” said employee Whitney Holloman. “And it’s really going to hurt a lot of people, not just us as our company or other companies like us, but also people in general who use kratom on a daily basis.”
Kratom is a plant grown naturally in Southeast Asia. It’s sold as a powder in capsules or to mix in liquids like tea or coffee.
Advocates say it provides safe, non-addictive pain relief and can combat anxiety disorders.
Holloman added that kratom can also help with opioid withdrawal.
“I have a really good friend that was addicted to prescriptions and hardcore drugs for 18 years,” she said. “He started using kratom and has been sober for two years, and now he no longer has to use kratom.”
The substance is banned in six states, including Alabama.
Senate Bill 2084 was introduced to add kratom to the list of schedule I controlled substances.
While Mississippi officials believe kratom is linked to 12 deaths in the state, advocates say that in those cases, kratom was one of many substances listed in the toxicology reports, including opioids
Caitlin Cox of Ocean Springs has been taking it for pain management for three years.
“I had surgery about four or five years ago, and I ended up getting addicted to prescription pain medicine,” she said.
She added that kratom has helped her get off opioids and control her pain. Making it less available would be tough.
“I have very bad cystic problems, and I’m in pain all the time," Cox said.
Holloman has witnessed what kratom can do for customers, including her friend.
“It’s amazing to actually see people every day that need this to help them,” she said. “I’ve witnessed it first hand, and I’m so grateful that he’s still here.”