You may have recently heard about kratom. This Southeast Asian herb is increasingly being used as a pain reliever, stimulant, and alternative to prescription and illicit opioid drugs.
Despite this, kratom has seen little research and health experts see it as a potentially dangerous drug.
As a result, kratom’s legal status is a contentious issue. Although kratom is federally legal in the United States, some states and counties ban its use.
So, is kratom legal where you live? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Kratom?
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is an evergreen tree native to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Traditionally, kratom leaves are chewed, smoked, or used to brew tea to relieve fatigue and pain and help with other health issues. ¹
Kratom has been used in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years and remains a popular herb, particularly among laborers looking to boost endurance in hot and humid working conditions.
Kratom is also gaining popularity in Western countries as an alternative to prescription and illicit opioids. This isn’t all that surprising given the opioid crisis happening in the U.S., Canada, and some other developed countries.
Some people also use kratom to relieve pain, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and other conditions, and as a recreational drug. Despite this, kratom remains a controversial herbal drug.
Why Kratom’s Legality is Contentious
The debate over kratom’s legal status is ongoing because of concerns over its safety.
For starters, kratom can be addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms, including runny nose, muscle spasms, pain, diarrhea, fever, mood swings, anxiety, tension, and disturbed sleep. ²
That’s because kratom contains several active ingredients that act similar to opioids.
Although user reports suggest that kratom addiction and withdrawal are milder than standard opioids, this is still a major concern.
On top of that, kratom has many potential side effects, the most common being nausea, constipation, and drowsiness. While serious complications such as seizures are rare, there’s simply too little scientific evidence to say that kratom is safe. ³
Similarly, aside from a handful of human and animal studies, there’s little evidence for kratom’s benefits. For now, most of what we know about this herbal drug comes from user reports, so high-quality studies are sorely needed.
As a result, kratom is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which advises people not to buy it.
The FDA has also sent warning letters to some kratom companies for promoting unsupported medical claims that kratom can treat opioid addiction, pain, and other conditions.
Another issue is that kratom products might not contain what’s claimed or carry contaminants, such as heavy metals.
Is Kratom Legal?
Kratom is legal under federal law. Although the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considered making kratom a controlled substance in 2016, it decided against that after a large public backlash.
However, some states, counties, and even cities have their own laws for kratom.
Currently, a total of six states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin — prohibit the sale, purchase, possession, and use of kratom.
Additionally, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Utah all passed a version of the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA), which is designed to regulate kratom products to make sure they’re safe.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire and Illinois, kratom is only legal for people over 18, while in Tennessee this limit is raised to 21 years, as long as the kratom is in its natural form.
We can expect more states to pass similar legislation in the future. Additionally, some of the states that ban kratom are considering removing the ban and passing the KCPA instead.
Finally, kratom is also illegal in certain cities and counties:
- The city of Franklin, New Hampshire
- The city of San Diego, California
- Sarasota County, Florida
- Union County, Missisipi
- Denver, Colorado, but only if it’s used for human consumption
- The cities of Jerseyville, Alton, Glen Carbon, and Edwardsville in Illinois
Keep in mind that the legal status of kratom is constantly changing. For example, many states have pending legislation for kratom or its active ingredients.
As such, it’s best to research the particular state, county, or city you’re interested in.
Is Kratom Legal in Other Countries?
We’ve talked about the United States, but what about other countries? Kratom’s legal status varies worldwide.
In Canada, kratom can’t be sold for human consumption. However, most vendors get around this rule by marketing kratom as incense. As such, kratom is still technically legal.
In many other countries, such as China, there isn’t a clear law for kratom.
However, some countries have banned kratom outright, including:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
Additionally, Indonesia is set to ban kratom in 2022, giving farmers a few years to switch to different crops. This will have a major effect on the United States since most of its kratom comes from Indonesian farms.
Meanwhile, Thailand was the first country to ever ban kratom in 1943 but legalized its medical use in 2018.
Again, it’s best to research a particular country to see if kratom is legal since the laws can change.
Where is Kratom Sold?
Although you may be able to find kratom in head shops and health stores, it’s mostly sold online.
Most vendors source kratom leaves from Indonesia before processing and packaging them in the United States. They sell whole and powdered kratom leaves as well as capsules, pills, and liquid extracts.
Currently, the most popular and reputable kratom vendors are Golden Monk, Kratom Spot, Kraken Kratom, and Organic Kratom USA.
These brands have many positive customer reviews and have their products tested by an independent lab to verify their safety and potency.
Summing Up: Is Kratom Legal?
By and large, kratom is legal. Although some states, counties, and cities ban or regulate its use, kratom is fairly easy to access. Kratom is also legal in Canada and many other countries, with a number exceptions such as the UK and Australia.
Having said that, much like cannabis — another herb with a long list of potential benefits — the legal status of kratom is always changing.
This change seems to be going in favor of regulated legalization, as more states are considering enacting the KCPA and similar legislation to make kratom products safer.
If you’re interested in buying kratom, there are several reputable online vendors to choose from.