In a disgusting display of what’s fundamentally wrong with America’s drug war, Shaina Brown, an entirely innocent woman, who harmed no one, finds herself locked up behind bars, slapped with an egregious $1,000,000 bail, later lowered to a still absurdly high $250,000, all for the mere possession of a plant she bought legally, just 200 feet away from where she was arrested. The plant in question? Kratom, a botanical supplement that has been vilified by a select few states and the federal government, despite it being perfectly legal in the majority of the US, including where Brown had initially bought it. It is also extremely safe when consumed properly.
To show just how insidious the state’s war on kratom actually is, we compared some of the recent bail amounts in Escambia County to Shaina’s case. Folks with crimes like strangulation, assault, battery, murder, and sexual abuse all have lower bonds than Shaina.
According to local law enforcement, the arrest happened in the dead of night on April 1, 2023, after Brown crossed over the unmarked state line from Florida, where Kratom is legal, into Alabama, where it is not. For those who may be unaware, kratom is ground-up tea leaves that are consumed by millions worldwide for its therapeutic benefits. Shaina’s mistake? Unknowingly bringing it into a state that has criminalized it.
Now, Brown faces the grim reality of the drug war in America. A plant purchased legally turns into a Schedule 1 substance the moment she crosses that imaginary line drawn on a map, transforming her, in the eyes of Alabama law, from a law-abiding citizen to a felon, with potential charges carrying a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
The charges are shocking, especially considering Shaina’s history of minor offenses: a solitary speeding ticket and a cold check written in 2014 for under $500. A woman who isn’t a hardened criminal is now facing the prospect of losing years of her life, all for unknowingly “trafficking” tea powder in Alabama.
What’s most chilling about these proceedings is the manner in which they’re carried out. Juries are informed that the defendants are charged with possession or trafficking of a Schedule 1 substance, but they’re not told that this substance is Kratom. This omission paints an unfair picture, aligning defendants like Shaina with the likes of hardened criminals involved in the trade of far more dangerous and illicit substances like fentanyl.