GLASGOW – A discussion of options regarding the sale of the substance kratom led off a meeting of the Glasgow Common Council Public Safety Committee this week.
When that part was said and done, the group – at his suggestion – decided to ask Glasgow Police Department Chief Guy Howie to work with the local chapter of the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy to get a packet of information on kratom together that he can distribute to the council members, and it can further weigh the direction it wants to take.
“Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website. “Kratom is not currently an illegal substance and has been easy to order on the internet. It is sometimes sold as a green powder in packets labeled 'not for human consumption.' It is also sometimes sold as an extract or gum. … Most people take kratom as a pill, capsule, or extract. Some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as a tea. Sometimes the leaves are smoked or eaten in food.”
Council member Marna Kirkpatrick said she had asked for the item to be placed on Monday's committee agenda, which had been stated as question-answer time with the director of Barren County's drug court and Kirkpatrick's husband, a GPD lieutenant. The councilwoman said her daughters in high school were asking about what it was, and she wondered “how in the world” and where they would even be hearing about it, and she had spoken with several officials about it since then to learn more about it and how others are attempting to curb it.
Councilman Greg Harris said his 19-year-old told him he'd never heard of it.
Councilman James “Happy” Neal said, “I don't think it's out there for everybody to know yet, but … it's something that would have to be researched. An ordinance, we'd have to look at it and say, 'What can we do. What is the state going to do?'”
Harris asked why couldn't the city work with state legislators to get it banned.
Howie, a member of the executive board for the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police, said he has tried that approach before.
“Each legislative session, there are certain things on the agenda that come up, and, you know, last year only thing that really went haywire was the pension. We are looking at some different stuff this year in the legislature. There's some things we're pushing. The marijuana thing's going to come up – again – medical marijuana. More than likely, that's going to come up again, so that's still being fought,” he said. “So we can put it out there. It's getting one of the legislators to put it forth on there. We can get the narcotics association to put in for it. They've got some stuff on their agenda, too. It's just, how important and where it stands.”
Kirkpatrick said she had talked with an attorney at the Kentucky League of Cities earlier Monday, and he had suggested the city could reach out to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy for options the city could consider, and Howie said he could call and speak with someone he knew there.
“I don't know how high up on their agenda it is,” Howie said.
She said the KLC person said another Kentucky city, Owingsville, had approved an ordinance banning the substance, and Howie said an attempted ban was being challenged in one location.
“Here's the other issue that we have with an ordinance, not that it's a bad thing,” Howie said. “How're we going to enforce it? How's it going to be enforced. If we send people in to buy it and prove they buy it, it's going to be a misdemeanor at best, because it's a city ordinance, and what're the penalties going to be? So, unless we have stronger teeth by revoking somebody's business permit, or their occupational license, in an ordinance such as that, we really don't have any teeth. It's the same thing that started with the original spice. Cities were putting ordinances together, and there was no bite to it, until the state came along and scheduled it, and put it on there, and now you can seize all the money and seize all the inventory and everything else.”
Howie said the legislature postponed a vote on it because it wanted more research on the medical uses for kratom.
Councilman Wendell Honeycutt, who chairs the committee, said he would hate to pass an ordinance against it, knowing it would be challenged, because he wouldn't want to subject the city to that. But he does think it's something bad coming along, and he suggested they could try to pass a resolution asking local businesses not to sell it and asking the schools to educate for it and hope something happens in the legislature with it.
Howie said they, as a council, could ask their local legislators to take a look and try to do something with it, and Harris and Neal chimed in that they felt that would be the way to go. Howie said it would get the ball rolling, so then Honeycutt suggested they could create a resolution asking the state representative and senator to take action.
He said they could contact them individually, but coming from the council as a whole might be better. Neal asked whether that was necessary, suggesting they could just ask the city attorney contact them, “because we still need to do a little bit more research ourself.”
Honeycutt asked about the committee members' wishes for the next steps, and Neal said the council members needed education on it first.
Then Howie made the recommendation they ask him to work with ASAP to get the information packet.
Honeycutt said the website WebMD made kratom sound pretty bad, and Harris said he'd looked at several sources and saw that some people had used it to stop an opioid addiction.
Neal said that with any medication, there are good and bad sides to it.
Advocates also say the substance is good for treating chronic pain.
Howie said, “I don't know about you all, when I walk into a convenience store and I'm not feeling good, I'm going to go to where it says 'Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson, and something else,' instead of something that's hanging there and says, 'not for human consumption' and they're selling it across the [counter].”
He said that's common sense, and Kirkpatrick said they needed to realize that a lot of youths don't have that, and they just want the next high.
Honeycutt asked for a motion, and the three council members actually on the committee – Honeycutt, Harris and Neal – agreed unanimously to let the chief do as he had suggested regarding gathering more information.
At that point, the meeting moved on to general departmental reports from GPD, Emergency Communications Department and Glasgow Fire Department, which were all primarily focused on staffing and equipment updates. GPD was down one sworn officer and one civilian position; GFD was down by one firefighter and the Barren-Metcalfe Emergency Communications Center was down one full-time dispatcher.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KRATOM
National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health: