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Palm Beach County Considers Ban On 'Feel-Good' Herb

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While many Florida voters debate the wisdom of legalizing medical marijuana, a different substance is causing concern in Palm Beach County.

County officials are considering a ban on kratom, an herb that’s becoming a staple at some trendy cafes.

Kratom is grown in Southeast Asia. The herb is available in packets sold at some gas stations and also at some cafes that serve kava, a beverage growing in popularity for its calming effects.

In 2012, Palm Beach County banned the use of synthetic marijuana, hallucinogens nicknamed “bath salts” and other designer compounds meant to mimic illegal drugs. 

Federal drug officials say that kratom acts like a stimulant at low doses. But at higher doses the substance has the exact opposite effect and acts like a sedative.

Palm Beach County Mayor Priscilla Taylor directed her staff to take a closer look at the herb after she heard from a mother who believes kratom use led to the recent suicide of her 20-year-old son.

“Obviously, you don’t want to ban or place restrictions on anything if it’s not causing problems," says Taylor. "But if it is, I think it’s the responsibility of the county to take a look at it. And [kratom] is on the watch-list for the FDA."

Taylor says she’s also heard from kratom users who claim that the herb is no more addictive than a strong cup of coffee.

So far, Sarasota County is the only county in Florida to ban kratom.

Years ago, after racking her brains trying to find a fun, engaging, creative night gig to subsidize her acting habit, Chris decided to ride her commercial voiceover experience into the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. She started out with traffic reporting, moved on to news -- and never looked back. Since then, Chris has worked in newsrooms throughout South Florida, producing stories for radio broadcasts and the web.