Is Kratom Legal?
The short answer is that kratom is legal in the majority of the United States, though there are several states, counties and cities that have banned it. Several others have implemented regulations relating to kratom, mostly in the form of a minimum age for purchase. We have provided a comprehensive overview of where kratom is legal, illegal and regulated below.
The information below is current as of the publish date, but you should be aware that there is ongoing debate within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) regarding the legality of kratom. Kratom has a long and unusual history with U.S. regulatory agencies, which is also explored in-depth below.
Where is Kratom Illegal in the U.S.?
States that Have Banned Kratom
Although kratom is hailed as a miracle plant by many — for example, see our recent article on the best kratom for pain — there are several states, counties and cities that have nevertheless banned it, using a variety rationales and mechanisms. Whether kratom will be banned in more jurisdictions is an open question. For now, they include:
- Alabama: Kratom is illegal by virtue of being a Schedule I substance pursuant to Alabama Code Section 20-2-23. This section was amended in May 2016 via Senate Bill 226 specifically to include mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine – the two primary alkaloids in kratom – thereby rendering kratom illegal. Interestingly, Section 20-2-23 characterizes mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine as “synthetic substances,” which is not accurate, as these alkaloids are naturally present in kratom leaves. Nevertheless, Change.org petitions in both 2016 and 2017 have failed to repeal the bill.
- Arkansas: Kratom is illegal as a result of being included as a Schedule I substance on the “List of Controlled Substances for the State of Arkansas.” This list was updated to include kratom in October 2015, after a notification from a local addiction treatment center that several patients had reported using kratom, and that the treatment center believed kratom exhibited an opiate agonist action. The Arkansas Department of Health reasoned that, because the FDA did not recognize any medical use for kratom, it should be listed on Schedule I.
- Indiana: Kratom is illegal due to being listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under Indiana Code Section 35-31.5.2-321. Specifically, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are defined as “synthetic drugs,” which, much like Alabama’s law, appears to ignore that both mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine in fact occur naturally in kratom leaves.
- Rhode Island: Kratom is currently illegal due to being included as a Schedule I substance under the Rhode Island General Laws Section 21-28-2.08. But new proposed legislation called the “Kratom Consumer Protection Act” is making its way through the legislative process, and may well make kratom legal in Rhode Island in the near future.
- Vermont: Kratom is illegal after mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine were added to Vermont’s Regulated Drug Rule in 2016. A Change.org petition in 2018 gained some traction, but ultimately failed to remove the alkaloids from this list.
- Wisconsin: Kratom is illegal following Senate Bill 325’s passage in April 2014, which made mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine Schedule I substances under the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Act.
Counties and Cities That Have Banned Kratom
- City San Diego, California: Kratom is illegal pursuant to San Diego Municipal Code Sections 52.3033 (relating to manufacture, distribution and sale) and 52.3304 (relating to possession). Kratom remains legal, however, in the rest of San Diego County.
- City of Denver, Colorado: Kratom may not be sold “for human consumption” according to an order of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. But retailers remain able to sell kratom for other purposes, such as aromatherapy and soapmaking.
- Sarasota County, Florida: Kratom is illegal in due to being classified as a “designer drug” under Sarasota Municipal Code Sections 62-348 and 62-351. Kratom is otherwise legal throughout Florida.
- City of Alton, Illinois: Kratom is illegal following a 2018 order of the Alton City Council. Other than in Jerseyville, kratom remains legal in Illinois.
- City of Jerseyville, Illinois: Kratom is illegal as a result of a 2017 order of the Jerseyville City Council. Other than in Alton, kratom remains legal in Jerseyville.
- Mississippi Counties and Cities: Mississippi counties and cities are aggressively banning kratom. So far, 10 counties and 23 cities have banned kratom in one way or another. The Counties include:
- Alcorn County
- Calhoun County
- Itawamba County
- Lowndes County
- Monroe County
- Noxubee County
- Prentiss County
- Tippah County
- Tishomingo County
- Union County
The cities include:
- Blue Mountain
- Calhoun city
- New Albany
- Tishomingo City
Miscellaneous Kratom Regulations
- Illinois: Purchase restricted to people 18 and over (except in Alton and Jerseyville, where kratom is banned).
- New Hampshire: Purchase restricted to people 18 and over.
- North Carolina: Purchase restricted to people 18 and over.
- Tennessee: Purchase restricted to people 21 and over, and kratom must be in its natural botanical form (i.e., pure kratom leaves, powders, capsules and extracts are legal, but synthetic versions are not).
Where Is Kratom Legal in the U.S.?
Other than the states, counties and cities listed above, kratom is legal throughout the U.S. For example, take a look at our where to buy kratom in New York guide. But it is a fluid landscape, with ongoing debate at federal agencies like the FDA and DEA, and proposed legislation in several states. Be sure to check with your local government for the latest.
Kratom’s Regulatory History
Kratom has a lengthy and unusual history with U.S. regulatory agencies, which is critical to understanding its current and future legal status. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know:
In August 2016, the DEA announced its intention to classify kratom as a Schedule I drug. (Remember, Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”)
There was immediate and intense opposition to the DEA’s announcement (including from several members of Congress), who viewed kratom as a legitimate alternative to opioids.
In October 2016, in an unprecedented move, the DEA reversed course on kratom, and withdrew its decision to make kratom a Schedule I drug. Instead, it announced an open comment period, which remains in effect to this day.
In October 2017, the FDA issued a report recommending a ban of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which would effectively make kratom illegal. The DEA has said that it is reviewing all available data, including the FDA report, but there is no timetable for its decision, which may take several years.
Meanwhile, support for kratom is growing and becoming increasingly well-organized. In December 2018, for example, the American Kratom Association issued a 27-page report arguing that the FDA has not and cannot meet its burden for recommending that mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine should be Schedule I drugs.
Additionally, numerous recent studies have suggested that kratom may have promising and legitimate uses, further casting doubts on the FDA’s recommendation.
Kratom’s legal status at the federal level remains unclear, but with mounting evidence that kratom may have valid therapeutic uses, the most likely result may be that the DEA simply allows the status quo to remain. Under that scenario, kratom would remain legal and unregulated at the federal level, with local government free to pass their own legislation.
Where is Kratom Illegal in the World?
Kratom is mostly legal or unregulated throughout the world, but there are a few countries that have deemed kratom and/or mitragynine and/or 7-hydroxymitragynine controlled substances. Those countries include:
- Canada (illegal “for human consumption,” but may be used for other purposes like aromatherapy or soapmaking)
- New Zealand (illegal for recreational use, but may be prescribed by a physician)
- Norway (illegal for recreational use, but may be prescribed by a physician)
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom (import and sale illegal, but simple possession legal)
Where is Kratom Legal in the World?
Kratom is expressly legal only in Hong Kong and South Africa. But it is legal (or at least unregulated) by default everywhere not listed above. But again, kratom’s legality is rapidly evolving, so be sure to check with local government where you live or are traveling.