Controversy, confusion over kratom use in Tennessee

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The kratom plant is either a helpful way to cope with pain and curb addiction to prescription painkillers, or an illegal substance in Tennessee, depending on who you ask.

The plant, with origins in Southeast Asia, is listed in a 2013 version of a law outlawing other drugs. However, a lawmaker involved in adding the main ingredient, Mitragynine, to that law, said the intent was not to outlaw natural kratom.

"The problem has come with the interpretation of the law, but I'm telling you what legislative intent was. Legislative intent will stand up in court," said former 2nd District Representative Tony Shipley of Kingsport. "We did not outlaw naturally occurring kratom. Having said that, I'm not advocating kratom or not advocating kratom."

However, special agent Tony Farmer with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said law enforcement considers all forms of kratom illegal, though, "Being that it's an A misdemeanor, it's not something that's gonna be high on our radar, as something we're chasing, but it is enough to send a message that it's illegal, it can't be sold in our state, it can't be possessed in our state."

Follow our series on kratom on Local 8 News at 6:00 p.m. this Thursday and next week.