Known for centuries in its native Southeast Asia, kratom has enjoyed increasing popularity in U.S. cities. Kratom, a powdered preparation of the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa, a close relative of coffee plants, has been imported for a number of years to the United States.

But as popularity soars, many states are enacting legislation banning the possession and sale of this herbal substance.

Kratom is native to countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. In its homelands, kratom has been used to provide pain relief, fatigue, and anxiety for many centuries.

After the importation of the herbal into the U.S. began in the late 2000s, usage of the substance was relatively low. Now, with increasing consumer acceptance, it is estimated that upwards of five million U.S. users enjoy kratom.

Early scientific studies suggest that the pharmaceutical properties of kratom are similar to both stimulants and opioids, depending on dosage. In low dosages, kratom produces stimulant-like effects. Larger doses produce euphoria, pain relief, and sedative effects.

While medical research is still ongoing as to the exact effect in the human body, preliminary evidence suggests that kratom might have value as a way of treating opioid addiction and in reducing dependence on powerful painkillers for chronic pain sufferers.

State Bans of Kratom

Faced with surging use and a number of deaths reported to be partially or wholly caused by kratom, many states have moved to enact bans. States like Alabama, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have already passed legislation banning possession or sale of kratom. North Carolina, Florida, New York, Kentucky, and New Jersey are also exploring further study or outright bans.

On the federal level, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has proposed to ban the importation, possession, and sale of kratom.

After a strong public outcry and petitions by medical professionals and advocacy groups, the DEA scrapped those proposals. Industry analysts expect the DEA to move once again to implement some type of ban on importation of kratom and the plant material it is derived from.

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