Letter to Florida House Democratic Leadership — Censure* Kristin Jacobs

[Let me preface by explaining that I am open-sourcing my letters to the Florida legislature concerning HB 183 — a bill to criminalize the possession and sale of kratom components — and any similar legislation that may be proposed. My first letter came on the heels of Kristin Jacobs’s jaw-dropping comparison of kratom advocates to Hitler. One must hope that Ms. Jacobs was a bit tipsy when she gave her interview.

These letters are yours to copy from, modify, or just generally enjoy should you be an advocate. I would ask that you not merely copy and paste them completely, but instead modify and add your own concerns and points of interest. Of course, if you happen to disagree in whole or in part, your criticisms and points are welcome too.

  • *Do not comment about the dangers of censorship, please. It’s a different word/concept.

Honorable Janet Cruz

316 The Capitol

402 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399–1300

Dear Representative Cruz,

I am a a private attorney as well as in-house counsel for a mental health care and substance abuse treatment provider here in Florida. I am writing with great concern about the behavior of one of your Democratic members.

I would like to request that Representative Jacobs be privately censured for her unprofessional and grotesquely inaccurate comments made in a January 9, 2017 article in the online publication Florida Politics. I have attached a copy of the article to this correspondence, along with my response interview that was published today. I believe Representative Jacobs’s comments reflect very poorly not only on herself but also on the House Democrats. I further believe that it would be in the best interest of both her and the Democrats for her to make a public statement rescinding the comments or, alternatively, for you to make a public statement condemning them. Until such time, I do intend to continue applying pressure regarding the matter.

Over the weekend, Representative Jacobs filed proposed HB 183, which would impose criminal sanctions on those possessing, transferring, or selling an herbal supplement called kratom. Leaving aside for the moment the bad public policy enshrined in the bill and its wrong-headed and potentially devastating consequences, Representative Jacobs’s interview with Florida Politics yesterday was uncouth and unbecoming to an extreme degree. In the interview, Ms. Jacobs made a direct and reprehensible comparison of kratom advocacy organizations to — and I wish I could say that I am making this up — Hitler. Her comments accomplish several unacceptable things: they call into question Representative Jacobs’s professional and personal judgment; they call into question her true motivation in making such inflammatory and false claims, considering how grossly out of proportion they were to issues surrounding kratom; and they trivialize one of the worst atrocities in human history. Our public officers are and should be held to higher standards of ethical conduct than this. While I defend her right to say whatever she wishes in her capacity as a private citizen, her virtually unlimited rights to freedom of speech must be circumscribed to conform to those higher standards of conduct when she is speaking as a House member and an elected public official. Her statements violate common sense and common decency, and she should accordingly suffer repercussions — even if those are as mild as a verbal rebuke by Democratic leadership.

In sum, if representative Jacobs wishes in the future to compare a movement to the Third Reich, she better damn well be referring to the genocidal extermination of millions of people.

I would further like to take a moment to address the substance of the piece, because virtually nothing Representative Jacobs said was factually accurate. I believe it is more important than ever to hold politicians’ feet to the fire when it comes to this type of impudent dishonesty. In my capacity as an attorney for **., which owns and operates psychiatric hospitals and rehab facilities in Florida and three other states, I can assure you that no patient has ever come through our facilities’ doors to seek treatment for kratom addiction. While we obviously cannot provide kratom to our inpatients and outpatients, I can further tell you that I have seen individuals who tried virtually everything — inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, support groups, suboxone — to get off of opioids. For some of these people, nothing worked until they found kratom, and from a treatment provider perspective, this is nothing short of miraculous. (Anyone with direct experience with opioid/heroin addiction is well aware that it is unique among addictions in its ability to kill quickly and linger in the form of cravings for the rest of a person’s life, no matter how long it may have been since he or she stopped using.) I have seen countless people find freedom from substance abuse and thus resume living healthy and productive lives, holding down jobs and taking care of their families free of craving, withdrawal, and pain. It should also be noted that due to kratom’s phenomenal analgesic properties, many people have been able to avoid taking opioids altogether for health conditions that involve crippling pain. This, too, is an outcome that should be applauded rather than dismissed in such bewildering fashion by one of your members.

In fact, in this climate — when opioid and heroin addiction have surpassed traffic accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the country — it is stupefying that we are even discussing a bill that would eliminate a critical tool in the fight against overdose deaths. I do not need to explain how Florida’s opioid problem is uniquely exacerbated by our history with pill mills. It is in light of these considerations that I view Representative Jacobs’s motivations with suspicion. Rest assured that we will be delving in as deeply as necessary to discover what those motivations may truly be. She has proposed this same bill twice before, only to have it die in committee after both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Health filed reports concluding that kratom poses no significant risk of harm to residents of the state. What does Representative Jacobs stand to gain by proposing this bill yet again? How many times are we going to have to correct the misinformation and bald-face untruths that she continues to put forth in spite of overwhelming evidence contradicting her claims?

I’m sure you will be hearing more from your constituents in the coming days and weeks regarding this matter. It’s not something that I could comprehensively address in this letter, nor is it my point to do so. My intent here is only to bring attention to the intolerable statements of Representative Jacobs and to give you a broad outline of a subject that you will almost certainly be engaging one way or another during the pending session.

Thank you for your time in looking into this matter and, at the very least, discussing with Ms. Jacobs her inappropriate statements and the need to maintain a more ethical and responsible standard of conduct. I look forward in the following weeks to meeting with members of the House to discuss the proposed bill and explain (once again) why it should not be entertained. I also look forward to seeing what the House Democrats have to propose in the coming years to both temper and engage the Republican leadership in our state capitol.

Very truly yours,

Kendra L. Jowers