Assembly Republicans Revisit Legalization of Kratom in Wisconsin


Assembly Republicans are once again considering the legalization of Kratom, an herbal supplement currently prohibited in Wisconsin. Kratom, derived from a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, is known for its self-treatment properties for conditions like pain, anxiety, and opioid-use disorder.

Last year, Republican lawmakers made an attempt to legalize Kratom, but the initiative was put on hold following concerns raised by law enforcement agencies. Both the FDA and DEA have issued warnings regarding its use.

Kratom can be consumed in various forms including pills, tea, or by inhalation through smoke. An estimated 1.7 million Americans aged 12 and above used Kratom in 2021.

In small doses, Kratom acts as a stimulant similar to caffeine, while in higher doses, it exhibits sedative effects akin to narcotic pain relievers.

Representative John Macco, R-Ledgeview, stated, “We think it’s a great alternative to address some of the drug problems we have. It replicates opioids without having the addictive effects. So for folks that have chronic pain, chronic issues, we think it represents a great alternative.”

Proposed Assembly Bill 393, co-introduced by Rep. Macco, aims to legalize Kratom in Wisconsin with specific branding and requirements to ensure it is free from adulterants.

Currently, Wisconsin law categorizes possession of Kratom as a misdemeanor, but manufacturing or distributing it elevates the offense to a felony.

Rep. Macco believes this needs to change, especially considering Kratom is legal in most other states. He emphasized, “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to provide an easy, over-the-counter product that folks would be able to have access to.”

It's worth noting that the FDA has not endorsed any prescription or over-the-counter drug containing Kratom, and the DEA classifies it as a substance of concern.

According to the CDC, Kratom was associated with 91 unintentional overdose deaths involving a combination of drugs in 2017. The Badger State Sheriffs’ Association is against the proposed bill, with Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt highlighting links between Kratom, psychotic episodes, overdoses, and impaired driving fatalities.

Sheriff Schmidt articulated in a letter, “At a time when so many Wisconsin communities are dealing with the devastating effects of opioid abuse, why would we legalize a dangerous substance, with links to opioid addiction and death, that lacks any medical or FDA-approved uses?”

Rep. Macco remains optimistic that, with appropriate regulation, Kratom can be used safely and effectively. He pointed out, “It replaces opioids. It’s much better than an opioid for managing pain.”

The bill will continue to progress through the state legislature for further consideration.