INDIANAPOLIS — This legislative session, we've seen multiple bills filed that would decriminalize substances that are currently illegal in the state of Indiana.
Several bills focused on marijuana decriminalization and legalization, but none of them moved forward.
House Bill 1500, which would decriminalize the substance called Kratom, is the only bill that has made progress.
"Some people use it as a replacement for a cup of coffee, for the energy boost and increased focus,” Mac Haddow, the Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the American Kratom Association, said. “Others have found that with a little higher serving size that they are able to deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression."
Kratom is a plant and is called an herbal painkiller. The leaves are ground and the herbs and botanicals in it have health benefits, according to researchers. The American kratom association estimates that there are about 60,000 people in Indiana who are using it.
"I have had a bad back for many years,” said Mike, who chose not to share his last name. “It's still kind of off and on. So I like to use it for that as well. “
Mike has been using Kratom for seven years. He asked to remain anonymous for the interview because in Indiana if you get caught with Kratom it is a felony.
Indiana made the substance illegal in 2014, along with five other states. The other states to ban it were Vermont, Rhode Island, Alabama, Arkansas and Wisconsin. They did so because the FDA tried to make the substance illegal on a federal level but failed.
“There are bad actors who are adulterating Kratom with fentanyl, morphine, cocaine, heroin, buprenorphine and other substances in order to give the natural Kratom product a euphoric high, which the natural plant that doesn't have,” Haddow said. “We think that consumers are put at risk on that basis.”
Now, lawmakers like State Rep Jim Lucas are trying to correct what he calls a mistake by the Indiana General Assembly.
"Let’s quit punishing and criminalizing a Hoosier that is not harming anybody, that simply wants to try something that affords them relief and is affordable and is not harming anybody else, " Representative Lucas, a Republican who represents District 69, said.
House Bill 1500would decriminalize Kratom and set up a framework to regulate sales of it in Indiana, something consumers and advocates say is vital to keeping kratom safe and effective.
“Currently, many kratom products don't have any of that information on their label,” Haddow said. “They don't have anything on the label, and they are not subject to any standards in terms of how their products should be formulated using good manufacturing practices to make sure they're safe for consumers.”
"It's a wonderful plant. It has a lot of great benefits, so hopefully they just look at that and make a decision based on that instead of what they hear and what they think, " Mike said.
House bill 1500 did pass out of the House and now heads to the Senate for consideration. To read more about Kratom, click here.