In the hundreds of years that natives use kratom before the turn of the 21st century, the plant was allowed to dwell in relative obscurity, hidden in the rural forestry of Southeast Asia. To the natives, it was simply a plant you could pull off of a tree and chew if you felt so inclined.
Even if some wondered whether it needed policing, there was no way to police it. After the year 2000, as kratom use spread to different parts of the world particularly the west, things changed. In the hands of Americans and Europeans, more attention was given to its classification–is it an herbal supplement, a natural drug, a narcotic? And along with classification will invariably come the questions of legality.
Kratom Legality in the United States
So is kratom legal in America? The majority answer is yes; it is legal and unrestricted in 90% of the states, and it’s banned in a handful. This is because state governments reserve the right to label the substance in different classes and prohibit its use, regardless of regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), America’s official entity on what is considered toxic and what is harmless, have reportedly taken considerable measures to ascertain whether there are harmful effects.
This is telling because there would be an abundance of documented cases from hospital stays and accidental deaths if kratom were indeed harmful. The FDA hasn’t found enough evidence to condemn or support the leaf, so it remains an item of interest rather than concern. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), predictably have a more stringent take, labeling kratom as “an item of concern”, though again, evidence of its harmfulness has not presented itself such that it is labeled a controlled substance.
This would make it legal in certain medical situations, but illegal for a common citizen to purchase and possess without these circumstances. As of 2016, kratom is banned in Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Vermont, and legal everywhere else. Some states, like Florida, have undergone extensive testing and deemed it an herbal remedy with no serious side effects, and have implemented an age-restriction of 18-and-older on the leaf.
Supported Measures For Its Continued Legality
Many Kratom users have written local legislature with stories about how the leaf helped them overcome serious opiate addiction and chronic pain. Numerous petitions with tens of thousands of signatures exist in states like North and South Carolina that have proposed anti-kratom legislation in the works.
The consensus among kratom users across the board is that an age-restriction is a reasonable compromise for parents worried about their kids attaining a dangerous “legal high”. Media outlets may be the pressure behind the legislation, however, as the leaf has been erroneously compared to highly dangerous drugs like bath salts.
Voices of those who have used kratom to quit lethal addictions like heroin have voiced their advocacy in contradiction to these media reports, and no doctors, reputable or otherwise, have come forth with evidence direct evidence as to kratom’s relation to erratic behavior. Still, it remains in a precarious legal position in some locations, and time will tell if it remains legal.
Kratom Legality in Southeast Asia
Strangely, kratom is prohibited in Thailand, one of the most abundant manufacturers of leaf, and a place with the perfect climate for it to thrive. Kratom has been used as an herbal medicine since before civilization in the region, but recent abuse–excessive dosage, mixing kratom with other chemicals to produce synthetic agents–have cause division among lawmakers.
Some are in favor of eradication campaigns where kratom trees are cut down and burned to prohibit further proliferation; others are convinced kratom poses no significant risks to public health and is actually an anti-drug for much stronger substance abuse.