Two local lawmakers want to block the sale of a herbal substance to minors.
State Senator Pam Helming and Assemblyman Joe Morelle say regulating the sale and usage of kratom (pronounced KRAY-tum) is critical in the effort to protect young people from addiction.
Kratom, which is sometimes called herbal speedball or ketum, is made from the leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. It contains opioid compounds and some people have reportedly used it as an herbal alternative to treat withdrawal cravings caused by addiction to opioids or other substances.
The product is sold in New York and several other states without age restrictions. Senator Helming said she first learned about it this fall at a seminar on the opioid crisis.
"Some of the slides that I saw during the presentation showed the substance available at popular stores where our teens tend to shop; there it was, between the socks and the hats."
Helming said her concern is that the supplement has addictive tendencies and could potentially serve as a gateway drug to other addictive substances.
Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration moved to ban the sale of kratom and classify it as a Schedule 1 drug, but that plan was delayed to allow for further research.
Helming and Morelle's proposed bill would direct the New York State Health Department to conduct a study on the drug's benefits and risks.