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Is Kratom Legal?

Is Kratom Legal?

As the popularity of kratom has increased significantly in the West over the last decade, and particularly in the last few years, many have been asking “Is kratom even legal?” Maybe you’ve been given conflicting information or even heard that bills were in the works to make it illegal. In this article, we break it down for you:

Is Kratom Legal in the U.S.?

At this time, kratom is legal in all U.S. states except for the following states:

  • Arkansas (In 2016, kratom was added to the controlled substance list)
  • Alabama (In 2016, kratom was named a Schedule 1 controlled substance)
  • Indiana (In 2014, Indiana defined kratom as a Schedule 1 drug)
  • Rhode Island (In 2017, the government criminalized the alkaloids in kratom, however, a new bill to reverse the ban and regulate it instead is currently in the works)
  • Wisconsin (In 2014, two primary alkaloids in kratom are classified as Schedule I substances)
  • Vermont (In 2016, Vermont placed the two main alkaloids in kratom on the list of controlled drugs) 

In addition, there are individual city bans including Alton, IL; Columbus, MS; Denver, CO; Jerseyville, IL; San Diego, CA; Sarasota, FL; Franklin City, NH and a county ban in Union County, MS.

As of 2020, there is pending legislation on kratom in the following states: Oregon, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi. Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Georgia.

U.S. government regulators have made several attempts to ban kratom in the last several years only to be met with significant backlash from the kratom community. Advocacy groups, such as the American Kratom Association (AKA) and the Botanical Education Alliance, as well as the community itself, through petitions, donations, and by showing up at government meetings, have all worked hard to keep kratom legal.

The American Kratom Association

Established in 2014, the American Kratom Association is a consumer advocacy organization and lobbyist group which has been working hard to keep kratom legal in the United States. AKA is a Virginia-registered non-profit corporation.

According to the AKA, “The FDA has deployed an unrelenting anti-kratom disinformation campaign since 2012, and every day we see more of the unfair attacks by the FDA in local cities, counties, and townships in addition to their broad attacks on kratom at the state and federal levels.” 

According to its website, the American Kratom Association has 5 main goals:

  1. Support Consumers. We believe many political and private entities don’t make the needs of the consumer and constituents a priority. Our goal is to change that.
  2. Educate. Kratom has many beneficial purposes and is an all-natural alternative. Our goal is to educate all Americans—from potential consumers to regulators and everyone in between.
  3. Amplify. We represent thousands of Americans that each have a story to tell. We believe the current environment in the United States often does not listen to individual voices and together we will make our voice heard.
  4. Global Awareness. We hope to demonstrate responsible use and practical knowledge other countries may study when considering Kratom legislation.
  5. Protect Natural Resources. Kratom is a precious natural resource. We support and advocate for sustainable harvesting techniques and reforestation efforts.

Why Should Kratom Remain Legal in the U.S.?

In the American Kratom Association’s article “The Top Ten Reasons Kratom Should Not Be Classified as a Schedule 1 Drug or Banned By Any State or Local Government,” the AKA highlights the expertise of Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), who believes we should be busy studying kratom – not classifying it as a Schedule I drug.

Dr. Volkow previously testified to Congress that when a substance gets a Schedule I, it makes research much more difficult.

Looking to the Future

Kratom has been the subject of several recent studies. Research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), published in June in ACS Central Science, offered new positive insights into the safety of kratom. The team, including researchers from Columbia and Memorial Sloan-Kettering, discovered that in mice, there was evidence that mitragynine and its related compounds may trigger therapeutic effects such as analgesia, while also limiting the negative side effects typical of classical opioids.  The findings point toward kratom’s potential in pain research as well as the need for further studies.

Is Kratom Legal in Europe?

Kratom legality varies in the European Union (EU). Kratom is an illegal substance in Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Sweden. In the United Kingdom (UK), it’s more complex. While kratom isn’t listed as a Schedule I substance, it most likely falls under the category of “psychoactive” substance in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 in the UK.

Is Kratom Legal in its Native Southeast Asia?

It may seem odd that kratom is subject to such strict regulations in areas where it grows naturally, but unfortunately, that is the case.

Indonesia: The Indonesian government currently allows the growing and harvesting of kratom for export, although local sales and distribution are illegal. In June 2019, however, Indonesia’s Minister of Health proposed a potential kratom ban that could become effective in 2024. According to the government, this would allow farmers 5 years to transition their livelihood away from kratom and toward other crops. 

As virtually all of the world’s kratom is produced and exported from Indonesia, a ban would cause quite a shock to the kratom community, including Indonesian farmers, American kratom business owners, and consumers. But there is hope that if worse comes to worst and the Indonesian ban is passed, Thailand may be able to fill in some of the demand, as the tide may be changing there regarding kratom legislation. 

Thailand: Although the Thai government considered legalizing kratom in 2004, 2009, 2013, and 2020 to no avail, it did begin allowing kratom to be used for medicinal purposes in 2018. Then in 2019, the government announced that kratom would be removed from their narcotics list, where it has been since 1979. Kratom cultivation has been illegal in Thailand since 1943. 

Malaysia: The use of kratom leaves is still prohibited under Section 30 of the Poisons Act 1952. However, its use is still fairly common among locals as the tree grows natively and kratom tea is readily available in villages. 

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