The fight for kratom legality

One of the greatest feelings the audience gets when watching wrestling is when an underdog wins a fight most people thought they couldn’t win. It is one of the reasons why people love wrestling. There is something about how we are hardwired that makes us want the underdog to win.

If we look around, we start to notice that these David-Goaliath types of battles are happening all around us. One example of such a battle is the fight to keep kratom legal in America.

Before we get into that fight, though, let’s cover some background information on kratom.

What is Kratom?

Kratom hails from the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. It is an evergreen tree in the coffee family that thrives in hot and humid climates. Also known as mitragyna speciosa, this plant can grow up to 20 feet tall.

The ancient cultures of this area thought this plant to have medicinal properties. Some modern governments do not believe in these properties and only see kratom as a drug-adjacent botanical that can be abused.

While that is the attitude of some lawmakers, millions of citizens in western societies like the United States believe these ancient people were onto something.

There are many different strains of kratom, such as Maeng Da, Malay, and Borneo, to name a few. Each strain, as well as the time each strain is harvested, reflects a unique alkaloid profile. Most strain names reflect the place it was grown. Borneo kratom is grown in Boreno, for example. Maeng Da kratom is unique in that the name refers to quality. It is a slang term in Thailand for “pimp grade”, meaning it is supposedly high quality. You can learn more about Maeng Da here.

Alkaloids are chemicals that affect the opioid receptors in the brain. This is how alkaloids create opioid-like effects in the body. It is extremely important to understand that alkaloids, and by extension kratom, are NOT opioids.

Opioids are either derived from opium or synthesized to mimic and intensify the effects of natural opium.

Many people who are against kratom unfairly link it with the pharmaceuticals that have wrecked the lives of so many people. The reality is many of these addicts have told stories of how kratom has helped them with opioid addiction. The FDA and DEA  attitude towards kratom keeps vendors from marketing their products as helpful for addicts, though, or any other kind of medical condition.

Why Do Some People Want Kratom Banned?

Lawmakers tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to botanicals they don’t understand. Since the alkaloids in kratom work on the opioid receptors of the brain, many take that information to mean they should see kratom as just as dangerous.

This misinformation is at the core of the fight against kratom. It is why many lawmakers, as well as the DEA, want it to be scheduled as a schedule 1 substance. This would mean it would be considered to have no medicinal value and would carry the harshest penalties for possession.

The closest the DEA has gotten to achieving this goal on the federal level was back in 2016. A handful of kratom companies sold some bunk product that was contaminated with salmonella.

Around the same time, there was an overdose death by a teen who was using other drugs besides kratom. While there was no way to prove kratom was to blame, the DEA still named it as the culprit.

The DEA seemed poised to win their fight, but then the underdog known as the American Kratom Association led the fight against these efforts.

Who is Fighting to Keep Kratom Legal?

The American Kratom Association was founded around the same time. They are the top advocacy organization within the kratom industry. Their mission is to provide scientific information to lawmakers so they can make informed and educated decisions on kratom legislation.

Their main policy initiative is to get the Kratom Consumer Protection Act passed at the federal level. This would legalize and regulate kratom. It would be regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement, which means all vendors would have to comply with strict manufacturing protocols. Retailers would also have to comply with sales and marketing restrictions.

Their argument is that kratom itself is not harmful, but rather the fact that it is unregulated that causes the danger.

Under their policy there would be a mechanism in place to keep harmful kratom off of the market.

While they haven’t succeeded in getting the KCPA passed at the federal level, they did win the battle against the DEA in 2016 to keep kratom from being classified as a schedule 1 substance.

What is the Current Legal Status?

As of now, kratom occupies a legal grey area at the federal level. It is technically legal, but it is unregulated. A handful of states have passed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. Unfortunately, some other states and municipalities have gone the other way and banned kratom entirely.

To make things even more complex, many states are currently in the process of deciding which way they want to go. You will have to do your own research into state and local laws to see if kratom is legal in your area.

The fight for kratom legality is long from over, but it will be one to watch over the coming months.

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