GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Kratom is a herbal supplement that is said to help with opioid addiction, but not everyone thinks it's safe. It's been banned in several states, and some advocates in Grand Rapids are trying to make sure that doesn't happen in Michigan.
On Thursday a group went to speak with Rep. Justin Amash to explain why they're in favor of kratom.
Several states have banned the use of kratom. Oct. 19 is 'Kratom National Legislative Awareness Day,' and people across the country are contacting their lawmakers to make sure it stays legal.
"A lot of people who are kratom advocates across the country are going to their congressman and giving them a fact sheet, because a lot of people don’t even know what it is. There’s no reason to demonize this plant. It’s never harmed anyone," says Riccardo Schinina, a kratom advocate.
Kratom is a leaf of a plant that grows in South East Asia and some people who use it say it has many benefits, including helping with opioid addiction.
"Definitely helps big time with withdrawal symptoms. I’ve been to 10 rehabs and 25 detox centers and I could not get my life together until I stumbled upon kratom and my whole life has changed," says Schinina.
But not everyone agrees, and the F.D.A. has considered a nationwide ban. The agency says there is evidence that shows certain substances in kratom could expose users to the risk of addiction. But advocates of kratom disagree.
“For me personally it helps with day-to-day back pain, the negative side effects that are trying to be portrayed by those who don’t want it legal are baseless," says Tyler Willett, a paramedic in Grand Rapids.
In Michigan it's still legal, and proponents want it to stay that way and are hoping it will be regulated nationwide.
"I would like kratom to be regulated and it’s our American right to take botanical specimens,” says Schinina.
The group who spoke with Amash say they will continue advocating for its use with lawmakers to make sure it stays legal in Michigan.
You can learn more about the benefits of kratom by clicking here.