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DTF: Kratom not here, yet

While many law enforcement officials state wide are battling a popular substitute for illegal drugs, Drug Task Force officials said the epidemic hasn’t made its way here, yet.

While it is currently legal, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, hopes to outlaw the substitutes commonly known as kratom or Vivazen.

His bill, SB226, would add those to the criminal code as schedule I controlled substances.

Orr equated kratom and Vivazen to spice drugs, though he said they have a slightly different effect.

“I have gotten emails and been contacted by constituents for the last year or so regarding kratom,” Orr told The Decatur Daily. “ It has a little different effect, but it’s similar to spice drugs that were being sold in head shops, convenience stores and places like that several years ago.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, Kratom is a tropical tree indigenous to Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and other Southeast Asia countries. It’s part of the coffee family. Thailand banned to substance decades ago due to prevalent abuse.

The substance can be consumed in a number of ways including as a dietary substance, steeped as tea, taken in powder form or in capsules.

Powdered forms of kratom are sold at head shops and convenience stores and can be purchased on the Internet.

Kratom powder sells online starting a $8.45 for 28 grams; $16.95 for 56 grams and $27.95 will get you 112 grams.

A “pimp grade” version of the powder starts at $19.79 for 28 grams and goes up to $62.99 for 112 grams.

Importing kratom is illegal in the United States, but since it is labeled as a botanic dietary supplement, the FDA can’t restrict its sale unless it is proven to be unsafe or that it treats a specific medical ailment.

If Alabama outlaws the substitute, it will join Wyoming, Vermont, Tennessee and Indiana in banning it.

Still, there isn’t much research on kratom in the U.S.

“It’s a fascinating drug, but we need to know a lot more about it,” Dr. Edward W. Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and co-author of several scientific articles on kratom.

Boyer warned those who use it recreationally or to self-treat opioid dependence could be as much as risk as with an opiate.

While kratom may not have made its way to being an epidemic locally, one drug still remains at the top of the list – methamphetamine.

In the last six, months, DTF agents have made numerous meth-related busts.

In December, agents took a known drug dealer off the streets on Andalusia’s Eighth Avenue.

Terry McClain was arrested and charged with distribution of methamphetamine.

In October, local law enforcement agencies shut down a meth-making operation in the Red Level and River Falls area.

Ricky Ward and Ramona Ryals were arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, trafficking methamphetamine and felony possession of drug paraphernalia.

During the search, agents found two shake and bake methamphetamine labs, seven containers of meth oil for a total of 140 ounces. They also found ingredients necessary for making the substance.

An Andalusia man — Andrew Troy Halford — was arrested for manufacturing meth in October after he was stopped for failing to use a signal and improperly using a lane.

Inside his vehicle, agents found items used to manufacture meth and a shake and bake bottle with 28 grams of meth oil.

Earlier in the October, Christopher Kip Jacobs was arrested for manufacturing meth and other drug charges after DTF and IRT agents found items used to manufacture meth and syringes loaded with meth and meth smoking devices.

In September, there were at least three other cases involving meth.

“We continue to receive information of methamphetamine labs in the Covington County area and will continue to fight these labs and attempt to make our community safer,” Agent Greg Jackson said. “Our biggest problem here is meth.”