Colorado Approaches Crunch Time Before Kratom Bill Becomes Law

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Colorado State Capitol Building Gold Dome where the Colorado Kratom Bill was passed.

Colorado was one of the first states to adopt its version of the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. Now, Colorado’s kratom bill is trying to break ground by providing a test case on the do’s and don’ts for regulated kratom markets.

The pressure to get it right now kicks up a notch, with less than a year (and one legislative session) remaining until a new state law turns it into America’s most scrutinized kratom market. 

In the wake of a 2022 law dubbed the Regulation of Kratom Processors Act, lawmakers set a two-year timetable to hammer out the details of what Colorado’s regulated kratom market would look like. The first hurdle was a deadline at the beginning of this year for a report on the “feasibility of regulating kratom products.” The remaining task is to decide which recommendations to implement before all aspects of the bill become law on July 1, 2024. 

A bipartisan effort powered the Regulation of Kratom Processors through the Colorado Senate, before tweaks and compromise helped get the bill through the House and to the Governor’s desk. That original bill contained all of the usual elements of KCPAs that have passed in other states: Minimum age of purchase, laws against selling or distributing adulterated products and detailed label requirements. 

Age requirements, and penalties for violating them, took effect when the bill was signed by the Gov. Jared Polis last spring. The rest of the legislation activates next July. 

Colorado’s Kratom Bill: Planning for Next-Level Regulation

What was unique was a clause calling for a report about how the law as it was written would affect kratom processors, retailers and the product itself. The law called for the executive director of the Department of Revenue to conduct the report, and for the findings to be presented to the general assembly on or before Jan. 4 of this year. 

Mark Ferrandino took all the available time to make his report, which included 10 recommendations for state legislators to consider. At the time of the report, Colorado’s legislative session was just beginning, providing two opportunities for lawmakers to adjust the law. No action was taken this year. 

That makes the 2024 legislative the last chance for lawmakers to set the details on what a regulated kratom market will look like in Colorado. 

Ferrandino’s report covered recommendations on nearly all aspects of the proposed kratom regulations. For starters, the Department recommended defining a set of terms and called for a more specific definition of which products are permitted and how state authorities can set rules for those products. The expanded rulemaking authority was also recommended for label requirements. 

What drew the most attention from interested parties were suggestions about the actual manufacturing, testing and bureaucratic details surrounding a regulated kratom market. 

On the manufacturing front, the report suggests adhering to a detailed set of standards to maintain sanitation standards, establish safe practices for employees and aid in tracing products should adverse health effects be reported. The report even lists specific industry standards for comparison. Other states have included general guidelines for manufacturing standards, but not on the level of what is proposed in Colorado, which would be more similar to the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Standards Program that is offered to vendors through the American Kratom Association

That focus on industry-level regulations in the report also carries into the realm of record keeping, where it is also recommended that Colorado’s KCPA require processors to maintain records similar to industries and processes with heavier-handed regulations. 

The Colorado State Capitol on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo). Here. Colorado lawmakers voted on Colorado's kratom bill.
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo).

The Plan As It Stands

To accomplish those recommendations, the report lays out a proposed structure of agencies involved, details on fees and a simple recommendation that kratom should still be subject to sales tax. On the fees front, the wording is vague, and states that: “Such fees should be deposited into a specific kratom fund.. and fees should be reasonable to cover the direct and indirect costs of the program.” 

The encouraging part for the industry is that the report also calls for the General Assembly to dedicate funds to cover the expenses required to start the program. 

In the past, advocates have cautioned against more restrictive regulatory processes, comparing such burdens to those of the legal cannabis industry. Colorado was a pioneer in establishing a regulated market for legal cannabis, and in the wake of the feasibility report on kratom, some pointed out similarities in the recommendations. 

Unlike cannabis, kratom is not scheduled at the federal level, which is why advocates expressed concerns that the report could lead to a costly regulatory structure. As the law is currently written, kratom will become regulated as a food product in Colorado come July of 2024, and consumers and advocates alike are hoping the report doesn’t lead to an onerous tweak to that process.  

Doug Pearson,a Colorado resident, expressed his views on the ongoing debate to the  Steamboat Springs, welcoming a market that ensures access to safe, unadulterated kratom. If those who opposed kratom wanted to make an impact, Pearson said, they’d be better suited incentivizing research into the plant instead of trying to make decisions on behalf of others. 

“There has only been a smattering of research, mostly because no one can make money by researching kratom’s value,” he said. “As an informed adult, if you read the research, I think you can make an informed decision as to whether it might be beneficial and worth trying.”

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