Another state has spoken on the ‘kratom question’ in America, and it means that both the numbers and momentum are trending in favor of a regulated, safe market for consumer access.
Following a back-and-forth debate over multiple bills to regulate kratom, Gov. Jim Justice signed SB220 into law, which will establish a regulated market in the state. The new law comes alongside an attempt to schedule kratom in this same legislative session, making West Virginia the eighth state to enact protections for kratom as the pendulum continues to sway in favor of advocates.
The passage of SB220 marks a significant win for kratom advocates and the notion of ‘science over scare tactics.’
Unlike other states, the West Virginia legislation also includes a section regulating industrial hemp, in addition to the article named the “Select Plant-Based Product Regulation Act: Kratom.” That article is designed to “allow limited regulated access to kratom for adults 21 years of age and older” and lays out the process for state agencies to make rules and issue permit to participate in the regulated kratom industry.
While the legislation has a different structure from kratom laws in other states, the core issues addressed are similar to the Kratom Consumer Protection Acts in seven other states. The American Kratom Association has been the driving force behind the recent spate of pro-kratom legislation, with senior fellow Mac Haddow saying the passage of SB220 represents lawmakers “embracing science, public health and data.”
“Their adoption of forward-thinking measures like the KCPA ensures kratom consumers can access safe, registered, and tested products,” he said.
Discussions around the substance were especially impassioned during this legislative session, with opponents lumping kratom in with delta-8 and delta-10 (two substances with similar chemical makeup to traditional delta-9 THC). In that bill, which also passed through committee, lawmakers attempted to schedule kratom as Schedule I and restrict access to sales.
Under the guise of keeping the products out of the hands of children and off of the shelves of convenience stores, select members of the state senate said kratom poses a risk to public safety due to the fact it would not show up on drug screenings in a work setting. This is contrary to scientific research that mitragynine can be detected in the human body and available research indicates that kratom does not have the same psychoactive impairments as other drugs of abuse or opioids.
With his signature, Gov. Justice ended the debate and set a date of June 9 for the law to go into effect. Justice commented on the bill after the signing, focusing specifically on the age requirements and saying the bill gives the government the ability to “monitor, regulate, and everything else, things that are being sold in our convenience stores or wherever it may be too little teeny kids with absolutely no age requirement.”
Now, consumers will have to be 21 to purchase kratom and will have access to products with clear labels and manufacturing standards.
On the national scale, the establishment of a regulated kratom market in West Virginia shows a significant shift in the momentum for a regulated approach to kratom in the United States. It’s been more than five years since six states decided to ban kratom. Recent attempts to expand kratom prohibition have also fallen short, including the competing legislation in West Virginia. Instead of becoming the seventh state to ban kratom products, West Virginia is now the eighth state to choose a regulated approach.
In Mississippi, a state that has seen attempts to ban kratom fall short in back-to-back years, one of the opponents of kratom said the message has become clear.
“There’s not the political will to get rid of kratom at this point,” said state Sen. Lee Yancey, the chair of the Mississippi Drug Policy Committee.
With West Virginia opting for regulation over prohibition, they joined states like Georgia, which saw an attempt to ban kratom defeated earlier this year. Instead, Georgia lawmakers are now looking to strengthen its version of the KCPA and offer mechanisms to enforce laws and keep its kratom manufacturers in line with state law.
Virginia lawmakers in both houses also passed their own, stripped-down version of the KCPA, which is awaiting the governor’s signature for the law to take effect.
Despite admitting the version that passed is “not perfect,” Virginia resident Sage Giles said it represents an approach of regulation and the promise of ongoing discussions, rather than opting for banning a substance that is used by millions of Americans.
The AKA also agreed that there is more to be done to strengthen the proposed law in Virginia, but agreed it is a solid vehicle for expanding the KCPA into the state. Beyond the promise of a regulated market, Giles said the bill would represent the start of a good-faith conversation, should the governor sign it into law.
“I love that this is a starting point and will make people think,” she said.