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Is Kratom Legal in the United States?

— April 20, 2023

As the future of kratom legality remains uncertain, it is crucial for those interested in kratom to stay informed about changes in legislation at the federal, state, and local levels.

Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna Speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, primarily found in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Kratom belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which also includes coffee and gardenia plants. The leaves of the kratom tree have been traditionally used for centuries in various cultural and medicinal practices due to their pharmacological properties.

Kratom contains a complex array of alkaloids, with the two primary active compounds being mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine. These alkaloids interact with the opioid receptors in the human body, which can produce both stimulant and sedative effects depending on the dosage. Users commonly report effects such as increased energy and focus at low doses, while higher doses can lead to pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria.

What is the Legal Status of Kratom in the United States?

In the United States, the legality of kratom is a complex and ever-evolving issue. Regulations around kratom vary significantly across federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, kratom is currently not classified as a controlled substance, and it remains legal to possess, consume, and sell under the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, individual states and local governments have the authority to enact their own laws and regulations regarding the legality of kratom, which has led to a patchwork of legislation across the country. Some states have banned or restricted the use, sale, and possession of kratom, while others have taken a more permissive approach, allowing for the legal use of kratom with certain age or labeling requirements.

The legality of kratom remains a contentious issue, with ongoing debates surrounding its safety, potential benefits, and potential risks. As a result, those interested in kratom need to stay informed about the current legal landscape and any future changes in legislation.

History of Kratom

Mitragyna Speciosa has a long history of use in Southeast Asia, where it has been an integral part of traditional medicine and cultural practices for centuries. Indigenous communities in  Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia have utilized kratom leaves for stimulants, analgesics, and even as a substitute for opium during periods of scarcity.

Traditionally, the leaves of the kratom tree were chewed fresh or brewed into a tea, providing users with an array of beneficial effects. In rural communities, kratom has been used by laborers and farmers to combat fatigue and enhance physical endurance during long hours of work. Additionally, kratom has been employed as a remedy for ailments such as pain, diarrhea, and fever, and even as a means to manage withdrawal symptoms from opiate addiction.

Rise of Popularity of Kratom in the United States

In recent years, kratom has gained significant popularity in the United States, primarily driven by increased awareness of its potential therapeutic benefits and ease of access through online vendors. The rise of kratom’s popularity can also be attributed to growing interest in alternative medicine and natural remedies, as well as a response to the ongoing opioid crisis, with some individuals seeking safer and non-addictive alternatives for pain management.

As a result, kratom has attracted attention from researchers, healthcare professionals, and policymakers alike, sparking debates surrounding its safety, efficacy, and legal status. While some advocate for the potential therapeutic benefits of kratom, others express concerns about its potential for abuse and adverse health effects.

Is Kratom Legal at Federal Level?

At the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for regulating controlled substances and enforcing drug laws in the United States. While the DEA has not currently classified kratom as a controlled substance, it has been monitoring the plant closed due to concerns about its potential for abuse and public health risks.

In August 2016, the DEA announced its intention to temporarily classify the primary active alkaloids in kratom, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine, as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act. This move would have effectively banned kratom in the United States. However, the announcement sparked a significant public backlash and outcry from kratom supporters, leading the DEA to withdraw its intent and open a public comment period.

Since then, the DEA has not taken any further action to schedule kratom, but it continues to monitor the substance and evaluate available research to determine if future regulatory action is necessary.

Role of FDA in Kratom’s Legality

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a critical role in regulating the safety and efficacy of drugs, dietary supplements, and food products in the United States. The FDA has expressed concerns about the safety of kratom and its potential for abuse, addiction, and adverse health effects.

The FDA has issued several public health advisories and import alerts on kratom products, citing concerns about the lack of scientific evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of kratom for any medical use, as well as the potential for serious side effects, including seizures, liver damage, and even death.

Furthermore, the FDA has taken enforcement actions against companies marketing kratom products with unproven medical claims, such as treating opioid withdrawal, pain, or other health conditions, as these products have not undergone the FDA’s rigorous approval process.

Role of the American Kratom Association

The American Kratom Association (AKA) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of kratom consumers and supports the responsible use of kratom as a natural botanical product. The AKA actively engages with federal and state policymakers, providing education about the potential benefits of kratom and challenging efforts to restrict or ban the substance.

In response to concerns about the safety and quality of kratom products, the AKA has developed the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Standards Program, which aims to ensure the production and distribution of safe and uncontaminated kratom products. The AKA encourages kratom vendors to adhere to these guidelines to promote consumer safety and confidence.

The American Kratom Association plays a crucial role in advocating for the continued legality of kratom at the federal level, providing a voice for the kratom community, and working to ensure that any future regulatory actions are based on sound scientific evidence and responsible public policy.

States where Kratom is Illegal in the US

As per the rules, you can’t buy, sell or possess Kratom in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

In addition to statewide bans, some local jurisdictions and cities have their own regulations and bans on kratom, such as San Diego in California or Sarasota County in Florida.

States where Kratom is Legal in the US

As per the rules, Kratom is legal, but may be regulated in the following states:

  • California: (Outside of San Diego, Kratom is legal in California)
  • Alaska
  • Florida (Outside of Sarasota Country, Kratom is legal in Florida)
  • Idaho 
  • Georgia
  • Arizona
  • Colorado (Legal outside of Denver)
  • Delaware 
  • Connecticut 
  • Hawaii 
  • Illinois 
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana
  • Maine 
  • Maryland 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Michigan 
  • Minnesota 
  • Mississippi 
  • Missouri 
  • Montana 
  • Nebraska 
  • Nevada 
  • New Hampshire 
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico 
  • New York 
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma 
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina 
  • South Dakota 
  • Tennessee
  • Texas 
  • Utah
  • Virginia 
  • Washington 
  • West Virginia 
  • Wyoming

Reasons Why People Love Kratom in the US

Kratom users in the United States report a variety of reasons for consuming the substance, which can be broadly categorized into medicinal and recreational purposes. Some of the most common medicinal reasons for kratom use include:

  1. Pain Relief: 

Many users claim that kratom is effective in managing chronic pain, with some studies suggesting that the alkaloids in kratom can interact with the body’s opioid receptors, providing analgesic effects similar to prescription opioids but with a lower risk of addiction and respiratory depression.

  1. Anxiety and Depression: 

Some individuals turn to kratom as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression, reporting that it helps to elevate mood, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.

  1. Opioid Withdrawal Management:

    Kratom plant; image by ThorPorre, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0, no changes.
    Kratom plant; image by ThorPorre, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0, no changes.

Kratom has been used by some individuals to ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid dependence, acting as a harm reduction strategy and a stepping stone toward recovery.

Recreational use of kratom is primarily driven by its psychoactive properties, with users seeking the stimulant effects at low doses or the sedative and euphoric effects at higher doses. As with any substance, recreational use carries the risk of adverse side effects and potential for abuse, which has contributed to the ongoing debate surrounding kratom’s legal status in the United States.

What is the Future of Kratom Legality in the United States?

The legal status of kratom in the United States remains uncertain, with the potential for future federal regulation or classification depending on several factors. As the DEA and FDA continue to monitor kratom and evaluate the available research, their findings could influence whether kratom’s active alkaloids are scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act or subject to other regulatory measures. 

The outcome will likely depend on the balance between scientific evidence demonstrating kratom’s potential therapeutic benefits and concerns surrounding its safety, abuse potential, and public health impact.

What is the Role of Advocacy and Public Opinion in Shaping the Kratom Policy?

Advocacy efforts and public opinion play a crucial role in shaping kratom policy in the United States. Organizations like the American Kratom Association work tirelessly to educate the public, policymakers, and regulators about the potential benefits of kratom while promoting responsible use and industry standards. Public support for kratom, as demonstrated through petitions, public comments, and grassroots campaigns, can significantly impact the decision-making process and sway policymakers in favor of more balanced and evidence-based regulations.

What are the Possible Implications for Kratom Users?

Depending on the future, and legal status of kratom, there could be significant implications for both kratom users and the industry. If kratom were to become federally regulated or classified, it could result in restricted access, criminal penalties for possession or distribution, or increased scrutiny of kratom vendors. Conversely, if kratom remains legal and is subject to more comprehensive regulations, it could lead to improved product safety, quality standards, and consumer confidence in the industry.


While kratom is currently legal at the federal level, individual states and local jurisdictions have the authority to enact their own laws and regulations, resulting in a patchwork of legislation across the country.

As the future of kratom legality remains uncertain, it is crucial for those interested in kratom to stay informed about changes in legislation at the federal, state, and local levels. By staying up to date on the latest research, advocacy efforts, and regulatory developments, kratom users, vendors, and supporters can effectively contribute to shaping a balanced and evidence-based policy landscape that promotes responsible use and access to this natural botanical product.

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