It has come to my attention that Kratom is up for illegalization in the state of Florida some time this year. This gets under my skin for a variety of reasons and I’m going to discuss them with you. Firstly, Kratom is perfectly natural; it grows right out of the ground. Secondly, the reasons for its bad reputation at present is because, like all substances we Americans get a hold of, a group of people will abuse it as they see fit. (However we aren’t banning forks for fat people, licenses for bad driving, or public office appointments for politicians that have been bought and paid for). The whole reason this has come to the forefront is the unfortunate suicide of a consumer of this particular substance. Ian Mautner leapt from the I-95 overpass on Woolbright several months back. While this is a tragedy, his death involved more details than just the consumption of Kratom. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, if we live in the freest, happiest, most-awesomest country in the whole gosh-darn world, (‘Merica!), then why in the Hell is the government still trying to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own body? Oh yes, dear readers, this bill stinks and we’re going to talk about why. I tire of the hypocrisy and hubris, of the holier-than-thou-approach to governance of the citizenry.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we. Kratom (pronounced Kray-tohm) is a type of tea leaf from Asia. It comes from the nation of Thailand primarily, but also Bali, Malaysia, and other nations in that area of the world. Typically, it is brewed like tea, or simply chewed to give energy, much like coffee. It had been made illegal there some time ago as a result of it being wrapped up a series of unfortunate events–that is to say that foreigners caused it to be banned because they were experimenting with a drug cocktail that alters them in a way they weren’t prepared for. Essentially, sellers mixed the tea leaf (by itself pretty harmless) into a cocktail containing Kratom, crystal meth, codeine and DEET (a pesticide). Does that seem like something you would want to do? Do you care to add a dash of Hot Shot or Raid to your morning coffee? No, I assume not. Unless you’re already hooked on something as vicious as crystal meth, you probably wouldn’t knowingly ingest pesticides, would you? I’m going to proceed under the notion that most folks would never knowingly drink bug poison, mostly for my own benefit and retained sanity.
Americans like to experiment. We won’t admit it, but we do. And we ought to. Trying things out and getting an interesting result has been the way of humans for tens of thousands of years. We tend to forget that we weren’t just apes; we were arboreal apes. We came down from the trees, just eating what was near the base of the tree, which thanks to us living and defecating out of the trees, turned out to be fungi. According to some, many of these fungi were psychedelic. In short, coming out of the trees and trying things out is what led us to where we are. Experimentation is required for advancement. Period. That being said, it is when multiple chemicals are combined in an unsafe way, the specific purpose to become inebriated, real danger presents itself.
Which brings me around to my next point: Ian Mautner did not commit suicide because of Kratom use. Let me say that again for the people reading from the cheap seats. Ian Mautner did not commit suicide because of Kratom use. I’m not a doctor, but I read the autopsy report after his death. (Oddly, it has mysteriously become very difficult to find online.) So here’s the deal, and I’ll make it really simple: According to the toxicology report I read online several months ago, Ian had three chemical compounds in his blood at his time of death. Kratom was the first. The other two were antidepressants. Not one, but two different types of medication for depression. I could end the argument there, but to further my point, Kratom is known to cause a sense of euphoria, positive feelings, and give a burst of energy. That’s why people have been ingesting it for thousands of years. These antidepressants we all so comfortably scarf down like Pez are a newer thing, with different kinds of reactions for different people. These chemical cocktails we ingest are the culmination of several years of hard scientific work, with the expressed purpose of producing the most effective common result, which according to our human wisdom cannot be tested on humans until it’s about to be marketed to the public. (I’m exaggerating the time-line a bit there.) Do you ever listen to those fast, soft-spoken voices during commercials that advertise this stuff? “May cause rectal discomfort,” “May cause sudden loss of consciousness,” “May cause sleeplessness or insomnia,” “May cause weight loss or loss of appetite,” “May cause suicidal thoughts.”
“May cause suicidal thoughts.” That last one sounds important.
The brand names aren’t important and neither are the chemicals. What matters in this case is that suicidal thoughts are a common side effect. They are common enough to advertise it right in the same damned message trying to sell you the damned product. It drive me further down bat-shit lane when I hear the “Make sure to ask your doctor if this drug is right for you” statement. My first response is, “How the hell would he or she know that information?” It isn’t radiator fluid. It isn’t a piece of fattening pie. It’s a pill, made by other people, designed for the lowest common denominator of immune and nervous systems in mind. That is to say that your doctor has no damned idea if it will harm you. They’re operating under the premise that his knowledge applies to your situation. Let me put it another way: Do you really think that your doctor is so well educated and experienced that he can guarantee an introduction of new chemicals won’t harm you? It’s a crap shoot. A gamble. A farce. They’re giving you the business, that’s what they’re doing. Your doctor has no idea what that specific thing, taken in any specific way, will do you your specific body chemistry and mental state. No idea. None at all. They have guesses. They have very, very well-educated guesses. I’m not saying doctors aren’t smart and I’m not saying they do not know what they are doing. What I am saying is that they aren’t fortune tellers and they can not tell you how a specific drug is going to affect you in the long term. How many people do you know playing the “Sorry” game with a shrink right now? “Oops, X milligrams of Y drug made you worse, let’s change the dosage of X.” How many people do you know prescribed antidepressants that are still unhappy? I know a ton.
I drive this point because of Ian’s death and the subsequent assumption that Kratom is the culprit behind his sudden decision to take his life. I knew him personally. I can tell you from experience that suicide is not something you just decide on a whim. It’s a cold, calculated choice. Ian had probably been thinking about this for some time. I’ve also ingested Kratom on multiple occasions. I can tell you that it doesn’t make you suicidal. I’ve also witnessed what is like to consume Kratom and then not over a period of time. The feeling of it not being in your system is uncomfortable, but it resembles a cold or flu, and it is not anywhere near as high an order of magnitude of withdrawal as the opiates it is being compared to. Within 24 to 48 hours you feel better, but a bit run down. Within three to five days, you feel almost completely back to normal. There are a couple other points to make. Ian had Kratom in his system at the time of his demise. This fact means the argument that withdrawal from Kratom was the cause of his suicide is not only inaccurate, it is contradictory to reality. Furthermore, of the three substances found in his blood, two of them (the anti-depressants) are known to cause suicidal thoughts. Kratom is not.
There is also a whole other chapter of this story that has been completely left out by the media. Ian was openly gay. This was not embraced by his family. According to my sources, he was ostracized for his sexuality, as well as for his previous addictions to drugs. In short, Ian was a recovering addict and on the outs with his family for his lifestyle “choice.” Taking drugs is a choice. Suicide is a choice. Being attracted to the opposite or same gender is not a choice. Whether it’s from birth or whether it comes from environmental experiences during your upbringing, I can not say for certain, but I do not believe you get to choose who or what you’re attracted to. Some people are attracted to amputees, some to little people, some to heavy people, some to food products, and even some to trees. (It is called Dendrophilia. Look it up.)
I don’t feel any of us make a choice in our sexuality. From my experience with people coming out to me, I’ve found that you just never really know what folks are into, even after spending a good deal of time around them. Many men and women that have discussed homosexuality with me have described it more like a spectrum. Most folks fall onto one end or the other, but many people fall slightly more to the center while still being mostly to one side. These are your dude-bro friends–totally heterosexual–that wax their eyebrows, have forty pairs of sneakers, know what DKNY stands for…things like that. That’s in the spectrum. They only pursue women, but they have some traditionally feminine attributes to their behaviors, no? This also brings up the point that gender roles and concepts that are traditionally masculine or feminine are becoming less and less important as we progress as a global culture. I think that, as a culture, Americans are far too uptight about sexuality. I don’t mean that we aren’t having sex, just that we aren’t comfortable with it. If it’s not the kind of sex we’re okay with, then it’s wrong and weird and bad, but we have one of the highest pornography viewing rates on planet Earth. This tells me that, as a culture, we aren’t comfortable talking about our sexual needs, our desires, our turn-ons and turn-offs, and unfortunately many of our citizens are looked down on for being attracted to the same gender.
During this entire campaign to make Kratom illegal, I have not heard one peep from the media, from Representative Jacobs, or from Ian’s mother for that matter, about doing anything positive for young people that may be at-risk for suicide, or for young LGBT people trying to adapt to a society that still has trouble accepting them. I haven’t heard anything about seeing to it that people at risk dealing with serious depression or addiction are getting help. No, what I’ve heard is how Kratom is a “devil drug,” how it ruins lives, how it took Ian away from his family. I’m sorry to take this route, but Ian took himself from the family. He made that choice, not a drug. Was he intoxicated at the time? Possibly. Was that why he chose to do it? Not likely. It was more like the final dose of courage he needed to follow through with his terrible plan. If it wasn’t Kratom, it might have been alcohol, or cocaine, or whatever else people take for that last dose of strength.
Drug use isn’t the primary cause for unhappiness in this country. It is a sickness within our culture as Americans. We demonize what we don’t understand. We ostracize those unlike ourselves. We hide within our own individual cultures, telling everyone else to be like we are, so we don’t have to face being uncomfortable.
In an effort to contain this type of discomfort, Florida State Representative Kristin Jacobs has made it a point to push for a bill making this plant illegal. This feels like a continuation of the war on drugs, which according to most citizens is an abject failure. It also feels like another attention-getting campaign for a politician. In the end, those appointed above us see us as statistics and dollar signs. For Rep. Jacobs, this is just another notch in the election bedpost. I’ve called the number listed (954-956-5600) to discuss banning Kratom and have been hung up on more than once. So have several other voters I’ve spoken to. That is the behavior of someone who has made up their mind and isn’t open to intellectual dialogue. And not for nothing, but our old buddy Rick Scott has a huge stake in the rehab clinic market in Florida. Gee, wouldn’t it be convenient if you could somehow get yourself into a position where you could make laws regarding those kinds of things? Hey, I wonder if other politicians have had those ideas yet. The point I’m making is that it only makes sense to do anything like this if you gain something politically or financially. “Follow the money,” as they say.
As a former soldier for this nation, I take issue with anyone determining for me what I can and cannot purchase, consume, smoke, drink, wear, drive, walk through, explore, experiment with, or freely collect (such as rainwater or sunlight). I have lived in the state of Florida since I was born in 1982. When I turned 20, I followed my youthful idealism into the US Army, where I served five years of a four-year contract. Yes, you read that correctly. I deployed twice to Iraq for a total of 27 months. We soldier types spend a lot of time thinking about things while we’re over there. Notions arose that I think most soldiers would agree on, one of them being that our civil liberties ought not be trifled with. In other words, we fought for the privileges granted to all of us at birth. Don’t mess with my basic rights. One of those rights is a freedom to choose to do what I wish in regard to my body and well-being. I find it completely ridiculous that a system of government would be willing to ban a substance as mild as Kratom based on a single public death, but be totally okay with continued sale of alcohol and tobacco products which claim hundreds of thousands around the country annually. People ingest fast food by the metric shit ton every day, clogging veins and arteries, ultimately overloading the health-care system politicians seem so concerned with. It’s not drug users and poor people that are taxing our bargain basement social care systems, it is unhealthy, lazy, ignorant people that would rather get a stomach surgery to lose body-fat than get on a bicycle an hour a day. And no one is batting an eye at the new fast food restaurants popping up around Palm Beach County like post-rain toadstools.
The point I’m trying to make is that the majority of these officials are using our civil liberties as a way to manipulate us into voting for or against things. In reality, they couldn’t care any less about our well-being. This is just another thing, another layer of nonsense, another system of control in an already micro-managed infrastructure. It is a waste of time, attention and tax money to even consider this as a bill. What are you going to do to enforce it? Arrest everyone online that ships the stuff? It comes in through Canada, Mexico and South America. It’ll be every where on the black market the day after you ban it. What you will create is an epidemic by making it illegal. You’ll get stepped on, cut up, unregulated, untested, dangerous versions of Kratom. You’ll get essentially the “bathtub whiskey” prototypes, some Frankenstein’s Monster plant grown in an indoor hydroponics lab by a botany degree dropout with a chip on his shoulder. Making everything illegal in an attempt to obtain civil compliance and obedience is how you wind up with weirdo drugs like Krokodil.
Banning objects or things because they upset you or because you disagree with them is ignorant and foolish. It doesn’t work. You want healthy young people that aren’t suicidal and addicted to drugs? You have to raise them. Teach them values and morals and don’t let the school system teach them at a very early age that they aren’t smart or attractive or creative or funny. Nurture their childhoods and then hope for the best. Being born in the United States is no longer the guarantee of a great life that it used to be. Our population will be half a billion pretty soon. Huge populations and less resources means that values have to come from the home, not the schools or the governments.
It is because of notions like this ban that I believe suicide is at a national high among young people and military veterans. Why do you think that those groups are being affected by the direction our country is taking? Perhaps it is due to those two being the most idealistic demographics. We go to war and come home to find out much of what you were taught is a lie: that we don’t really have rights, we have temporary privileges and we are just as imperfect as every other nation on Earth. The only difference is that we don’t admit it. We arrogantly claim we’re the best at everything. We aren’t. I’m including a video blurb from a show called The Newsroom, in which Jeff Daniels’ character, Will McAvoy, nicely sums up how I feel about all of this.
“The first step to solving a problem is admitting that there is one.”
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