TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — Agents with the Talladega County Drug Task Force have been delivering notices to nearly 100 retailers that carry products containing a substance called Kratom, asking that these businesses voluntarily pull the products from their shelves within 24 hours.
The notice warns that failure to do so will result in the seizure of these items and/or arrest and prosecution of managers and/or owners under Alabama Criminal Code 13A-12-211 and/or 13A-12-211.
WIAT 42 spoke with cashier, Larissa Hamilton, at one of those locations. She said an agent came in on Wednesday morning and explained the notice to her before giving her a copy to show to customers.
“I removed it,” Hamilton said of the Kratom products. “I didn’t want any part in it. I removed it, and I locked it up in the office.”
However, Hamilton said that around 20 customers came in looking for those items within the next few hours.
“We have lots of disappointed customers,” she admitted. “They’ve asked me why we couldn’t sell it anymore. After that, I showed them the paper. I told them it was because of the Kratom in it.”
One of those customers was Jeffrey Nix. Years ago, Nix was involved in a car accident that crushed his hip. About ten years later, he re-injured it.
“I have a slight pain almost every day of my life,” Nix said. Nix started working out to try and build up his strength, but it was very painful for him. “I was abusing Lortab, and then someone told me about the energy drinks,” he explained.
Nix said that for about a year he would buy and drink one product containing Kratom almost every day. He believed it was a healthier alternative to manage his pain.
“It’s suppose to be herbal,” he explained.
However, after seeing the notice at the gas station; Nix now questions what was in those drinks.
“I don’t know, but I know one thing,” he said. “It was getting out of hand, and I can’t blame Sheriff Kilgore for shutting it down. There were a lot of people that were abusing them.” Nix claimed he knew former customers that would drink up to four of the Kratom drinks every day. Nix said he’s confident that he can go back to working out without them.
Talladega County Drug Task Force Commander Jason Murray said agents started looking into Kratom after getting numerous phone calls from concerned citizens.
“The driving force behind what we’re doing are the parents calling and complaining about these retail stores selling to their kids,” Murray said.
Murray explained that parents would call, worried that their children exhibited signs that they were under the influence of an opium-like substance. He also said that he fielded calls from spouses who had seen their loved ones spend hundreds of dollars on Kratom products every month.
“Kratom affects the opiate receptors of the brain,” Murray explained, “and Alabama law says that any substance that hits those receptors is deemed illegal, or a synthetic under the synthetic law.”
Murray also insisted that the task force is not targeting one specific product, or aiming to put someone out of business: “Our first responsibility is to protect the public, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The task force did not seize any of the products when they distributed notices at the properties across Talladega County. However, Murray says that agents will be making spot checks to ensure that Kratom is not being put back on store shelves.
WIAT heard from a nonprofit group called the American Kratom Association after they saw a previous version of this story. According to the group’s director, Susan Ash, they advocate for people’s rights to use the Kratom plant responsibly.
Click on the video below to listen to the complete phone interview with Ash for her take on what’s happening in Talladega County.
Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News