What Is Kratom and Why Is It So Contentious?
Its scientific name is Mitragyna speciosa, but it’s more commonly known as Kratom. It’s an indigenous plant in Southeast Asia.
Suppliers use the tree’s leaves to create a botanical powder. Lately, these botanical products have been at the center of a heated debate.
Some countries have restricted access to it. Now, we even have a few states in the USA that have made it illegal, too. To further complicate matters, some local cities and counties have passed anti-Kratom legislation in states where it’s legal. That creates a big problem for citizens that live in those areas.
Taking all of that into account, the subject of Kratom laws becomes confusing.
How did a harmless plant become so controversial?
Well, it doesn’t help that we have an ongoing opioid epidemic in our country. These circumstances made some politicians wary of plants with therapeutic properties—even nontoxic ones.
Kratom is a miraculous plant with a multitude of benefits! It helps thousands of people across the globe every single day.
What Are the Purported Benefits of Kratom?
According to historical records, locals took Kratom as a folk medicine for centuries in Southeast Asia. Scientific literature indicates its usage since the early 17th century, but indigenous tribes knew about its properties for centuries before then.
Recently, the market generated a thriving Kratom industry. Here is a brief list of some of the amazing benefits Kratom can provide:
- Kratom may give the user more energy.
Kratom belongs to the same family of plants as coffee. Both plants have alkaloids that encourage energy. However, the plants use different compounds to produce those benefits.
- It provides relief from discomfort.
One of the main reasons people take kratom is its ability to relieve discomfort. It is perfect to use after stressing your body at work or the gym.
- People take it to uplift their moods.
Throughout our lives, daily interactions have a way of bringing our spirits down. Kratom users say the plant elevates their mental state.
- Consumers say Kratom helps them rest well.
Some Kratom strains are better in the evening time since they help people relax and the drowsiness that accompanies those products is beneficial at bedtime.
What Are the Side Effects and Safety Concerns Associated With Kratom?
An herbal botanical can affect various people differently. Preexisting health conditions can create side effects that won’t be present in healthy individuals. Always consult your physician before taking any supplement.
One side effect from Kratom accompanies prolonged use. Like coffee, you’ll need to take more to get the same effects if you’re a daily user. Our bodies become accustomed to it. Luckily, there are ways to reduce Kratom tolerance. Use those tips to get the most out of your Kratom.
Is Kratom an Opioid?
This question has various answers, depending on who you address. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have you believe it is. The FDA states that it hits the opioid receptors in the brain and makes it an opioid for that reason alone.
However, there are many researchers in the scientific community who state otherwise. They say even though Kratom does interact with opioid receptors, the classification of an opioid is wrong. Scientists note that Kratom and its alkaloids have been classified as atypical opioids because they are structurally and biologically distinct from classical opioids. Atypical opioids are not the same as opioids. For starters, with atypical opioids, any analgesic effects don’t rely exclusively on mu-receptor agonism. As science continues to evolve, we hope to uncover more truths about Kratom.
Still, the evolving definitions in the medical community create more confusion. At one point, the classification only included opiates and opioids. Each was distinct from the other. Opiates are naturally occurring alkaloids found in opium poppies. Opioids are synthetic compounds or derivatives. Now, scientists and the government have interwoven the two.
The alkaloids found in Kratom are not opiates, nor are they synthetic opioids. Placing them under the same umbrella as the two is disingenuous. Kratom compounds should have a unique classification all to themselves since Kratom is not an opioid.
Is Kratom Legal In My State or Area?
Over in Southeast Asia, where Kratom grows naturally, the laws are mixed. One country might have a restriction on Kratom, but another country next to it allows the sale, use, and exportation. This also happens here in the States.
Despite Kratom remaining a legal substance on the federal level, you’ll find an assortment of laws throughout our nation on state and local levels. In the US, we’re accustomed to that arrangement because we see it all the time with the cannabis industry. Some states allow adults to buy and use marijuana, while others do not.
States Where Kratom Is Restricted
Right now, six states have made Kratom illegal within state lines. However, we should note that three of the states restrict Kratom before public awareness of the plant. Also, we had limited scientific research at that time. Those three states were Wisconsin, Indiana, and Arkansas.
Here is a complete list of states where Kratom is restricted:
- Wisconsin: It became the first state to restrict the plant product in 2014.
- Indiana: It was the second state to restrict the plant product. That happened a couple of months after Wisconsin.
- Arkansas: The state restricted Kratom in 2015, labeling it as a derivative of opium. That’s scientifically inaccurate on multiple accounts. Yet, the legislators pushed it through anyway.
- Alabama: Another state that erroneously labeled Kratom during the process to make it illegal was Alabama. In 2016 it restricted Kratom as a new synthetic substance.
- Vermont: The restriction of Kratom happened behind closed doors. The Secretary of State added the Kratom plant alkaloids to a revised scheduling bill after the fact.
- Rhode Island: It was restricted Kratom in 2017. However, some representatives of the state speak openly about changing the law.
States Where Kratom Has Restrictions
States have jurisdiction from a state level, but local municipalities have the same power on the local level. The government policies in towns, cities, and counties can differ from the state. Right now, there are six states where municipal bodies have passed anti-Kratom laws.
- Colorado: Kratom is legal in the state; however, Denver restricted Kratom in city limits for human consumption. A couple of other towns have recently placed temporary retail bans, too.
- California: While it’s legal on the state level, two cities have restricted it altogether: San Diego and Oceanside.
- New Hampshire: You can buy and take Kratom in all parts of the state except for the city of Franklin.
- Mississippi: Even with Kratom legal, over 20 cities have made kratom illegal locally. Plus, almost a dozen counties have done the same. You should contact your local government if you live there. Laws are constantly changing.
- Illinois: So far, four cities have taken it upon themselves to restrict Kratom. In Alton, Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, and Jerseyville, Kratom is illegal.
- Florida: Right now, Kratom is legal everywhere in Florida except for Sarasota County. Stay clear of that county when possessing Kratom.
Local laws change frequently. So, it’s very important stay aware of the laws where you live.
States where Kratom is Legal
There are 44 states that have maintained the federal legal status of Kratom. The graphic below shows which states Kratom is legal. Still, some of those states have municipalities in them that have restricted it. We discussed that in the previous topic.
Laws get overturned all the time, and new ordinances are passed daily. Your best bet to stay informed of Kratom laws is to contact your local government leaders.
Here is a complete list of states where Kratom is legal:
- Important reminder: Kratom is legal in Colorado, California, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, and New Hampshire, as shown above. There are local areas within those states that have restrictions on the plant.
What is the History of Kratom Legality?
The Kratom tree grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the surrounding area. For centuries, the locals took the plant for granted. The leaves were used as folk medicine. Nobody sought to cultivate the plant on a massive scale as they do today.
Things changed after the World Wars. The victors formed the United Nations. Global agencies pushed for the scheduling of specific plants with medicinal properties. Then some local governments started making additional plants illegal. An example of this was how the Thai government restricted Kratom in 1943. And then, almost a decade later, the Malaysian government banned it in 1952.
The neighboring country of Indonesia allowed natives to continue to utilize Kratom. Lately, it exports it to other countries. The plant is legal in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration has maintained a defensive stance against the plant for over a decade now. Fortunately, the checks and balances of our government have their efforts to restrict Kratom temporarily roadblocked.
Why Is Kratom Legal in Some Countries?
To a great degree, the governments of most countries follow the advisement of the World Health Organization (WHO) for determining which plants or substances should get scheduled. The WHO oversees international drug conventions between nations.
Currently, the WHO does not recognize Kratom as an illicit substance. So for global trade, it remains a legal substance. Since Kratom is like coffee, it’s likely to stay that way.
However, every country has the right to produce legislation as they see fit. Some countries make plants illegal that the UN has not. We see that occurring with Kratom in some nations. A lot of this has to do with the political persuasion manifesting within their borders. Religious fundamentalism can play a role in laws. Plus, we cannot rule out lobbying efforts from the pharmaceutical industry. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to gauge why a country would make such an amazing plant illegal.
Luckily, some countries, like the United States, give their citizens the freedom to buy Kratom products. Hopefully, that won’t change!
Thailand Legalizes Kratom
Thailand once restricted Kratom back in the early 1940s. It was for monetary reasons. At the time, the government created a tax for opium and tax collectors didn’t want to lose any of the revenue because of Kratom. So in turn, the government made Kratom illegal.
Fortunately, Thailand made amends for its actions back in August 2021. The Thai government decriminalized the sale and possession of Kratom in the country. That gave a long-lost folk remedy back to the nation’s residents. Natives no longer must fear the threat of imprisonment for using a harmless plant provided by nature. The locals once again have access to an herbal remedy their ancestors used for centuries without persecution.
With further regulations, local farmers can hopefully prosper from the global Kratom trade. A new cash crop would help the farming community of the developing country.
Kratom Restriction Update - Will the FDA Restrict Kratom?
For the past decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fought against Kratom. Kratom consumers have watched its actions closely. Then in 2016, the Kratom community felt the shockwave whenever the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it was going to perform an emergency scheduling of Kratom. The DEA intended to add it to Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA).
The statement was concerning because it came out of the left field. The Schedule I list is supposed to be meant for dangerous drugs. Still, the announcement felt forced. After all, it boiled down to the government agencies scheming together to disregard scientific data.
You see, the DEA can temporarily schedule substances deemed a threat to society, but scientific support must show that immediate regulatory action is necessary.
However, that wasn’t the case with Kratom. Instead, the research information presented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was flawed and inaccurate. It was the same false information spread by the FDA for years.
2016 Attempted Kratom Restriction Reversed
Thankfully, the DEA’s plans came to a halt. The combined efforts of Kratom advocates, political leaders, and the American Kratom Association applied the necessary pressure.
Kratom users quickly created a petition to stop the restriction. Bipartisan lawmakers signed a letter to show support for more research and discussion. The AKA used its political persuasion behind the scenes to get the ball rolling to reverse actions.
The DEA stopped its plans, but the HHS pushed for the scheduling of Kratom in 2017, per a letter addressed to the DEA, but it rescinded the recommendation a year later.
Recently, the federal government has allocated funds for Kratom research. In this light, perhaps there’s hope for Kratom!
With the FDA still gunning for Kratom and pushing false data onto a unsuspecting public, those actions demonstrate a flaw in its responsibilities. The agency is supposed to follow the science and data from legitimate research. Since the FDA is targeting Kratom specifically, elected officials must pass legislation to safeguard the Kratom industry.
That’s why we need a Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA).
What is the Kratom Consumer Protection Act?
As we’ve discussed, the FDA is supposed to regulate the food industry. It’s one of the primary reasons the federal government created it. Strangely enough, Kratom falls under a type of food product.
In the US, the FDA monitors that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). However, the FDA declines to perform these duties for the Kratom industry since it rejects the use of the Kratom plant altogether.
That creates a huge problem. It allows the Kratom industry to operate without any government oversight which presents a complication for Kratom consumers. Those customers must blindly trust Kratom companies are abiding by the correct procedures.
A saving grace, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA) safeguards Kratom shoppers.
The KCPA is a piece of legislation that protects Kratom consumers. The concept behind the bill was to force some legal constraints on the industry and provide labeling requirements for Kratom products. That way, consumers have access to the ingredients and the KCPA can place age restrictions on kratom consumers.
A KCPA on the federal level would set legal guidelines in stone across all 50 states. Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t entertained the notion yet. Thankfully, a few state legislatures have taken up the slack and passed a version of the KCPA to protect their citizens.
The States that Adopted the Kratom Consumer Protection Act
Since the federal government keeps the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA) from moving forward in Congress, a few states have recently passed their form of the KCPA through state government. So far, five states have a KCPA on the books. Hopefully, more will follow their lead.
The first state to ever pass a Kratom Consumer Protection Act was Utah. Their legislators put the bill into law back in March 2019. Governor Gary Herbert became the first state governor to support the cause by signing it into law.
Back in April 2019, Arizona passed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act.
Georgia made the Kratom Consumer Protection Act law a few days before Arizona did in April 2019.
During the summer of 2019, Nevada passed a version of the Kratom Consumer Protection Act.
The last state to pass the Kratom Consumer Protection Act was Oklahoma. Their government leaders voted and approved it in May 2021.
- It’s important to note that passing a Kratom Consumer Protection Act has several hurdles. For starters, it must pass the House and Senate with majority approval. Then the governor of the state must sign it into law. Without all groups in agreement, the law fails. We recently witnessed that in Oregon. Legislators passed the KCPA, but Governor Kate Brown vetoed the bill. That’s why it’s important to vote for officials that support Kratom legalization.
What is the Future of Kratom Legality?
The FDA continues its war on Kratom, but the legal conflict has hit a stalemate. Kratom advocates, along with some political persuasion, have kept the federal agency in check for the time being. In politics, the pendulum can swing at any given moment.
Now, a possible threat exists from a global standpoint.
A World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) recently stated it would possibly consider Kratom for deliberation in a future meeting. However, those results are still unknown. Only time will tell on that front.
The future always remains uncertain - but that’s a good thing. It means the future is unwritten, too. Any instance with uncertainty means the smallest choices we make can have the most impact. That’s how our actions can play a pivotal role on the stage of life and the political arena. We all must do our part to keep Kratom legal. And luckily, we all can.
The American Kratom Association (AKA) is a consumer advocacy group that fights tirelessly to keep Kratom legal and safe for citizens of the United States. Donations to the non-profit organization provide them with the arsenal to take on the FDA in Washington. Plus, they fight for our cause on the state level, too. All of your contributions go a long way. Take the opportunity to support the fight for Kratom legalization if you can afford it.
Support Kratom Companies that Donate to Kratom Legalization Efforts
Some people don’t have the extra cash laying around for donations to the AKA even though they believe in the cause. We understand that. The pandemic has created rough times. And now, inflation has reared its ugly head; it’s the highest yearly increase since 1990. So, people are spending more frugally at the moment. Still, there are ways for you to participate in getting the AKA donations without you making them yourself.
A few vendors continuously donate to the AKA. Happy Hippo Herbals is one of those companies. Recently, we contributed $55,000 to help them fight to keep Kratom legal in Indonesia. Our combined efforts worked! The Indonesian government postponed their proposed restriction until 2024, which gives the industry two more years to change the minds of the Indonesian government officials.
Buying Kratom from Happy Hippo Herbals allows you to participate in donating to the AKA through our company. Every product you purchase enables us to give even more. Buying Kratom from us helps to keep kratom legal. It’s that easy.
We want to keep Kratom legal for everyone. You want to make sure it stays legal for you. So together, our combined efforts will do everything in our power keep it that way!
Disclaimer: Kratom remains unregulated by the FDA, the authors of this text would like you to note that although this article contains many points regarding the use of Kratom, they should only serve as a piece of information - not medical advice.
Kratom is not intended to cure, diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition.
Make sure to speak to a physician if you have questions before using Kratom.