Denver Joins Kratom Backlash With Sales Ban

By Paul Gaita 11/22/17

Denver retailers who wish to sell kratom for non-consumptive purposes like aromatherapy will be required to add a consumer advisory label.

hand holding kratom plant leaf

Less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health advisory about kratom, the city of Denver, Colorado announced that it would be restricting the sale of the plant-based product for human consumption.

The decision by Denver's Department of Environmental Health (DEH) adds the city to a list that includes several U.S. states and countries like Australia and Germany, among others, which have banned the herbal drug over allegations of potential health risks and more than a dozen deaths.

Kratom advocates attribute numerous health benefits to consumption of the drug, including the treatment of anxiety and depression, chronic pain and even withdrawal from opioid dependency.

The decision by Denver's DEH will require all retailers who wish to sell kratom for non-consumptive purposes to add a consumer advisory "in large font and easily readable to all purchasers" which states, "This product is not intended for human consumption. Consuming kratom products may pose a risk, including death, to consumers and has addictive potential. Increased risk of injury or death may be posed by consuming with alcohol and other drugs."

Additionally, retailers are prohibited from giving consumers any guidance in regard to dosage or consumption of kratom.

Kratom is currently not approved for use by the FDA, which also does not allow the substance to be imported into the United States as a consumable item. In a press release issued by his agency on November 14, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that concerns over the use of kratom to treat pain and depression, as well as withdrawal from opioid dependency, prompted the public health emergency statement.

Additionally, Gottlieb cited "clear data" on reportedly harmful side effects from use of the plant, including the report of 36 deaths "associated with the use of kratom-containing products." The FDA's statement, in combination with Denver's Food Establishment Rules and Regulations—which require that all consumable items sold in the city be sourced from regulated food manufacturers, and that those items are classified as consumables—led to the plant product's current status.

Consumers in Denver with concerns about kratom were encouraged to contact the DEH's Public Health Inspections division at [email protected] or 720-913-1311.

In the meantime, kratom advocates must wait for the FDA to put the substance through "a proper evaluative process" that involves both the agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) before fully embracing the "potential medicinal uses" of kratom—which in his statement, Gottlieb stated that his agency was "open" to considering.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.