Next time you’re filling up your gas tank, check out the convenience store offerings. You’ll see flashing lights advertising kratom and, if you head inside, you’ll see displays of powders, capsules, extracts and gels. Sometimes kept behind a locked glass case, sometimes kept behind the counter, kratom is available to anyone over the age of 18, much like cigarettes. Kratom is not sold in big-box stores, but it is a billion-dollar industry in the United States.

The uninitiated may wonder, what is kratom? According to Georgia’s current legal definition, kratom is “the tropical evergreen known as Mitragyna speciosa, which is native to Southeast Asia and contains the alkaloid mitragynine.” O.C.G.A. § 16-13-120. Kratom leaves have historically been used as part of herbal medicines that can be chewed, smoked and brewed into tea. The leaves are packed with over 40 chemical compounds called bioactive alkaloids. The main alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, activate the same receptors in the brain as opioids.