Kratom is a substance proponents tout as a beneficial herbal supplement, while critics say it has the potential to be dangerous or even deadly.
At the federal level, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth over the legality of kratom. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, consumers shouldn’t use kratom, technically known as Mitragyna speciose. Despite this warning, it’s not illegal federally. This plant, native to areas like Thailand, Malaysia and New Guinea, affects many of the same opioid receptors as morphine does.
People use kratom as a way to deal with opioid addiction and dependence because of its opioid-like effects. Some people also use it as a pain reliever. The FDA is evaluating kratom but, in the meantime, they’re warning people not to use it until they know more about its safety.
While kratom isn’t illegal federally, many cities and towns are taking steps to prevent people from buying and using it. Castle Rock, a town south of Denver recently decided to ban the sale of kratom to anyone under the age of 18.
Castle Rock and Underage Kratom Sales
The Castle Rock town council recently approved a new ordinance that requires a $300 fine for anyone who sells kratom to minors. Last year, Castle Rock set a moratorium on the licensing of new kratom shops while working on new regulations.
While some see it as an alternative to opioids, the FDA outlines the potential for abuse, dependence and addiction among the risks associated with kratom use. Since the FDA doesn’t currently regulate kratom, there are also potential issues with lacking standardization of the product.
While selling kratom to minors is illegal in cities like Castle Rock, the product is largely sold online.
The DEA and Kratom
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is considering classifying kratom as a Schedule I drug. If that consideration were to go into effect, it would essentially ban kratom’s use federally.
In 2016, the DEA tried to make kratom a Schedule I substance, calling it an imminent public safety hazard. However, groups around the country lobbied to Congress to stop the scheduling and the DEA ultimately withdrew the plan, calling on the FDA to do more research.
The Legality of Kratom in the United States
While the FDA and DEA remain unsure of the fate of kratom federally, many states banned it on their own. Kratom is illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. States considering kratom legislation include Florida, New Jersey, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York and North Carolina.
Cities where kratom use is illegal include Denver, San Diego and Sarasota.
Oregon recently added a set of restrictions for kratom use into an unrelated bill. However, the state Senate reversed course and removed the kratom references. The Oregon bill would have led to regulation of the production, testing and labeling of kratom as well as a ban on underage sales to people younger than 21.
Its likely kratom will continue to make headlines as people come out on both sides of the debate.
The Associated Press. “Colorado town bans underage sale of herbal supplement kratom.” The Denver Channel, June 6, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2019.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “FDA and Kratom.” April 3, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2019.
Gutierrez, Lisa. “What you need to know about kratom as the feds crack down on the herbal supplement.” The Kansas City Star, June 1, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2019.