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Colorado’s Kratom Discussion Sets the Stage For Regulated Markets

One of the surest signs of a new calendar year comes in the flurry of legislation, especially following an election. 

From more concrete actions, such as legislation to simply garnering momentum or researching a topic, the first few months of the year set the tone on how lawmakers at all levels are going to act on a specific issue. 

For kratom advocates, that’s meant a flurry of different actions: More states are trying to regulate kratom for consumer safety; other states, and some local municipalities, are trying to take action against it, and Congress has legislation on the books to try to provide information and research for consumers and lawmakers alike. 

One state, however, is ahead of the curve in terms of the kratom question and is setting the tone for the questions that will surround a regulated market for kratom. 

Colorado is one of nine states that has opted to regulate kratom and, per a law signed last year, is in the process of taking an in-depth look at what the future of the kratom industry should look like in the state. With the movement in the industry, that means many are turning their heads toward the Centennial State and waiting to see what policies and procedures prevail from the back-and-forth between lawmakers, advocates, and those who produce and sell kratom. 

As part of a new year surge in activity at the state government level, Colorado’s Department of Revenue (DOR) released a feasibility report that included ten recommendations for the future of the industry. Included are alternatives and supplemental information, setting the stage for Colorado to blaze a trail in terms of what a regulated market for kratom could look like from production to point of sale. 

At the heart of the discussion is how restrictive, and costly, the regulation process could become in the wake of the recommendations by the current administration. Colorado was one of the first states to establish a recreational market for cannabis, and the level of regulation, testing and labeling recommended in the report would establish similar structures for kratom. 

In addition to a recommendation to include a more detailed label for all products and specific recommendations around manufacturing standards, much of the discussion centers around the call for testing requirements set out in the report. The state’s DOR is recommending third-party testing similar to hemp and cannabis, and sets proposed standards for private labs to match standards set by the Board of Health and federal regulations. 

That section includes language that states third party testing services would be paid for by processors and retailers, before setting out further fee and tax suggestions later in the report. 

While advocates have favored a regulated market to ensure consumer safety, the proposed regulation could create an “artificial barrier” for consumer access due to those fees, according to Mac Haddow from the American Kratom Association (AKA). Haddow told Axios that the cost of regulation would fall on the industry, which could be overly burdensome, and that the hard-handed regulation, like that for legal cannabis, is “unneeded.” 

“The difference is kratom is not a scheduled product, it doesn’t need that level of regulation.” 

Beyond the discussions around potential new regulations and fees, the report also offers insight into the size and scope of the regulated market. With the help of the AKA and other stakeholders, the state identified that there are between 10-15 kratom producers in the state, and two labs that indicated they test kratom products. As far as retailers, the state identified 282 physical stores in Colorado, as compared to 4048 licensed tobacco retailers in the state. 

With more of an idea of who would be affected by new rules and regulations, the report concluded “an appetite exists in this state for legislative action” and that the “vast majority of stakeholders” supported regulation of kratom. What that regulation looks like, and how much of a burden it puts on producers and retailers, is yet to be seen. 

One of those retailers, a local kratom entrepreneur named Faith Day, said she supports increased regulation and testing due to personal experience with tainted products and unreliable producers.

“This is really about consumer safety and making sure people are getting what they need,” she told Westword in Denver. “We think the state has done an excellent job of listening to our vendor concerns, so that we can make sure we don’t get into a situation where people are getting an adulterated product.”

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