‘Herbal Opioid’ to be Banned Under Kean Bill

The Assembly State and Local Committee on Monday released a bill that will ban substances containing a popular supplement that led to the death of a New Jersey man last year.

CJ’s Law (A3797), sponsored by Assemblyman Sean Kean, criminalizes the manufacturing, distributing, or possessing of kratom, which comes from a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Kratom can have both stimulant and sedative effects and its chemical compounds act much like opioids.

Although little research has been done in the United States to confirm alleged benefits, kratom interacts with the brain’s opioid receptors and is used to treat pain, coughing, diarrhea, anxiety and depression, opioid abuse and withdrawal. The federal Food and Drug Administration estimates that 1.7 million Americans ages 12 and older use it.

When taken with a mixture of other drugs, it can cause liver damage, troubled breathing and death. A 2021 American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that 150 overdose deaths were linked to kratom.

“It’s illegal in many countries but not federally banned or even on the schedule of controlled substances in the United States,” Kean (R-Monmouth) said. “It’s too late to save CJ, but we can make sure no one else dies from taking this dangerous herb.”

Kean’s bill is named for 33-year-old Manasquan resident Christopher James Holowach, who died from cardiac arrest in 2023 after mixing an over-the-counter kratom supplement and his physician-prescribed Adderall. Holowach consumed kratom to ease his pain while awaiting arm surgery and not jeopardize his recovery from opioid addiction.

If enacted, anyone who manufactures, distributes or possesses a substance containing kratom could be charged and face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines.

“It’s a fallacy to believe just because something is derived from nature, that it’s safe,” Kean added. “The supplement market is unregulated, with at times deadly consequences. Kratom needs to not only come off the market, but be banned.”

New Jersey would join Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin in banning kratom products.

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  1. I take kratom and have for over ten years. It helps me in many ways. Banning something on speculation that it may have led to a death is obscene. Making a substance that helps millions of people only creates a black market. This in turn fuels gang activity and violence while also raising the chance of adulterated products. Prohibition does not work. It never has.

    • All drugs and chemicals need to be controlled. No different then the over abundance of carbs eaten today by Americans in particular. This isn’t something that everyone should be playing with on their own.

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