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Trio of States Propose New Laws and Policies for a Regulated Kratom Market

Last fall, opponents of kratom tried to make their voices heard with municipal bans and another attempt at statewide action. 

In just the first few days of 2023, proponents of kratom back are answering back with a roar in multiple states as advocates attempt to ensure a regulated, safe market for consumers and sellers. 

A trio of states are taking up the kratom question in attempts to establish a regulated market for both kratom sales and distribution. And although the bills and efforts are at different stages of the legislative process, advocates are hoping to keep the momentum from federal legislation filed in December rolling with state-level action on this side of the New Year. 

Legislation was filed this past week in both Florida and Virginia this week to attempt to establish a regulated kratom market, while the first state to sign kratom legislation into law is looking to take further steps. All of this action comes just weeks after “landmark” legislation was introduced in Congress in an attempt to turn the tides toward legal, regulated markets for kratom. 

That ‘kratom question’ has been seemingly in a state of back-and-forth since United States policy makers started to try and find a legislative solution to the substance. Six states banned kratom around the same time in 2016 that the Drug Enforcement Agency attempted to schedule kratom. That attempt was met with resistance from community members, medical professionals and members of congress, and was withdrawn that same year. 

Lawmakers in Mississippi have pledged to try and become the seventh state to ban the substance, joining a number of municipalities who have taken action against the substance as a push to prohibition popped up late last year. With the legislative advances of this past week, however, it appears that the pendulum of momentum may be about to swing back in advocates favor.

For Florida, this will be the second consecutive legislative session after state senator Joe Gruters reintroduced a nearly identical bill to one that died in committee last March. Gruters bill attempts to establish a “Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act” and sets basic rules for a regulated kratom market available to consumers at least 21 years old. The bill made it through two committees and fell one short of making the senate floor, with Gruders hoping to clear that final hurdle this year to bring the bill to the floor. 

That legislation contains many of the same features of a bill introduced by Virginia state delegate Hyland Fowler. Both were introduced by Republican lawmakers in chambers that are controlled by their party, and in states that also have Republican governors. Both set the legal age for purchase at 21, and both set terms for limitations on kratom processors. 

The bills make it illegal to “sell, prepare, distribute, or expose for sale” kratom products that are “adulterated with a dangerous non-kratom substance that affects the quality or strength to such a degree that it may injure a customer” or any kratom product that contains a “poisonous or otherwise deleterious ingredient that is not kratom.” The proposed legislation also formalizes punishments for kratom products that are adulterated with controlled substances. 

What’s significant about this most recent push is that it matches similar legislation passed last year in Colorado through a Democratic state house, and that was signed by a Democratic governor. Less than a year later, Colorado is also looking to expand on its own “Regulation of Kratom Processors” act. 

As part of the regulated kratom market in Colorado, the Department of Revenue was required to study the feasibility of regulating the substance, and submit a report for legislative recommendations. That report was released last week, and includes both similarities and next steps from the proposed legislation in Florida and Virginia. 

One area where the two overlap is on what the Colorado report deems “Products Permitted.” In both proposed laws, kratom products that contain synthetic alkaloids would not be fit for sale–in the report by Colorado’s DOR, it is recommended to permit kratom products that contain or are derived from its “natural botanical form.” The discussion in all three states also focuses intently on labeling requirements, with the Colorado report recommending a more detailed approach to labeling that includes storage conditions and sets font sizes in addition to the same manufacturer information that is included in the two proposed bills. 

The Colorado report was also “tasked with considering alternatives to regulation”, but in the first bullet point of that section concluded it “does not recommend” a course of action where the General Assembly does not act. In addition to burdening local authorities and law enforcement with a task that could create “potentially contradictory standards”, the report concludes that the actions to extend the existing law is the best path to providing protections for consumers and producers alike. 

“The Department believes the recommendations contained in this report strike a balance between the viewpoints of various stakeholders and represent an appropriate initial regulatory structure while providing the Department and other state agencies authority to adapt to the emerging and evolving kratom market.”

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