RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia legislators have rejected a proposal to regulate kratom, a controversial but legal narcotic, leaving the widely-available product in legal limbo.
Under a bill sponsored by Delegate Hyland “Buddy” Fowler (R – Hanover), the commonwealth would have regulated the sale of kratom, an “herbal supplement” derived from a tree native to Indonesia.
Kratom is touted by advocates as an alternative to opioids that can offer pain relief without the high risk of addiction from painkillers like Oxycodone and Fentanyl.
But the sale and manufacture of kratom is largely unregulated. The substance is banned in six states and sold under industry-backed regulations in four states. In the rest of the country, there are effectively no restrictions on its sale — something an industry lobbyist warned was detrimental to Virginia residents.
“The industry has been very concerned about adulterated kratom, kratom products that have other things in them,” said Michael Carlin, representing the American Kratom Association.
He added that major industry players support the bill because they want to keep the product safe amid concerns over unlabeled kratom sold at gas stations and other shops across the state.
The bill would also ban the sale of kratom to anyone under the age of 18.
But Delegate Danica Roem (D – Manassas Park), spoke against the consumer regulations, citing an FDA report that suggested that even in its unadulterated form, the drug was dangerous.
“FDA is concerned that kratom, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence,” the report reads.
The FDA report doesn’t outright recommend a ban on the substance, but it does urge caution as more research is conducted on the substance’s effect.
That cautious stance was endorsed by some members of the committee when they voted 14-7 to lay the bill aside, deferring action on kratom for this session.
“I feel like the best action at this time is either as a state we study this in a work group and figure out what those regulations would look like and what we’re concerned about, or we do nothing and let the FDA give us some guidance,” said Delegate Dawn Adams (D – Chesterfield).