Kratom’s path across the US is marked by deception and secrets

Kratom powder and pills Mitragyna speciosa

The kratom trail spanned thousands of miles before it ended inside Jeremy Franka’s Broward County home.

Two bags of the substance were near the 35-year-old’s lifeless body in a backpack in his bedroom. One held 120 capsules of O.P.M.S. Silver, a popular kratom product that has been linked to multiple overdose deaths in Florida.

The other bag, with the same distinctive three-leaf emblem, was empty.

The trail starts in the verdant fields of Indonesia, where farmers pluck leaves from native evergreen trees. Once in the United States, kratom zigzags across the farmlands of the Deep South, through the plains of southeastern Colorado, to the sprawling suburbs of Atlanta — cloaked in secrecy at every turn. It can make nearly a dozen stops, where it is blended, cooked and packaged before powdered and potent versions land in gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops.

By the time these products reach Florida consumers like Franka, suppliers and manufacturers have taken elaborate measures to evade regulators and avoid detection, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

Hundreds of businesses make up America’s kratom industry. The Times traced the steps along the trail, focusing on O.P.M.S., one of the country’s most popular names. It has roughly a dozen kratom products on the market, ranging from dried leaf powders to potent liquid shots.

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