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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida lawmakers want to set the age limit for kratom use at 21

Green pills lie on a table.
Catie Dull
Kratom products are legal in most states and are widely available. But the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration worry that kratom carries the risk of physical and psychological dependency and, in some people, addiction.

Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a bipartisan plan to regulate the use of kratom, an herbal supplement that causes opioid- and stimulant-like effects.

Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a bipartisan plan to regulate the use of kratom, an herbal supplement that causes opioid- and stimulant-like effects.

“We don’t want anybody to spike it or to cut it," said state Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). "We want an unadulterated, pure form going to the consumer at the end of the day.”

The Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act would ban kratom manufacturers and sellers from mixing the substance with illegal drugs and synthetic compounds. It would also set the age limit to purchase and consume kratom at 21 years old. The measure has received unanimous support in both the House and Senate as it moves through the committee process.

Right now, there are no state or federal kratom regulations.

Under the proposal, kratom packaging in Florida would have to include a suggested serving size and directions for taking the substance safely.

“Kratom solves a lot of issues," Gruters said. "It helps people get off opioids. It’s used for pain relief. There are many retailers and establishments out there that sells kratom.”

Gruters represents Sarasota County, the only county in the state where kratom is banned. Other states have banned the substance, too.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports there have been a few kratom-related deaths, and in nearly all of those cases there were other drugs or contaminants found in the user's system.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a statement expressing the agency's support for banning kratom, as its use may lead to addiction. Kratom dependency can cause physical withdrawal symptoms similar to opioids.

Valerie Crowder
Caleb Curl, owner of Kameleon Kava & Coffee, opened his shop in early February, 2023.

About a month ago, Caleb Curl opened Kameleon Kava & Coffee in Tallahassee’s Railroad Square. The cafe serves kratom drinks, along with kava and coffee. They primarily serve college students and young professionals, he said.

“It’s as if a coffee shop, a bar and a church had a baby, this is what you get," Curl said. "You get the community feel of a church, seeing the same people every week. You get the social scene of a bar, and the aesthetics and networking of a coffee shop.”

Curl says he supports measures to regulate the contents of kratom products, but he’s not in favor of setting the age limit of kratom use to 21.

“We have a lot of students who come in and all they simply want to order is kratom," Curl said. "I think that would turn off a lot of students from coming in if they know that they can’t buy kratom anymore, granted we do have other alternatives that they could consume while sitting in here."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.
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