The Drug Enforcement Administration released a notice of intent to temporarily place kratom in Schedule I on Aug. 31, the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act. This would make manufacturing, possession and distribution of kratom illegal.
Elizabeth Gardner, owner of the Krave kava bar in Carrboro, which sells kratom tea, said there are misconceptions surrounding the drug. She said the tea is very relaxing but will not induce a high.
“The tea works just like coffee, chocolate or sugar,” Gardner said. “They work our opiate receptors, but they are not opiates.”
She said many people use kratom to deal with opiate addictions they developed when managing chronic pain.
Russ Baer, spokesperson for the DEA, said the initiative to place kratom in Schedule I comes from 15 reported kratom-related deaths and 660 kratom-related calls to poison control centers.
“Once we begin to look at the harm associated with a substance, we are obligated to move forward in an effort to protect the public health,” he said.
Baer said it is unclear when the scheduling will take place.
Regulating kratom has not just been a federal issue. Over the summer, a North Carolina bill was introduced that would make possession and consumption of kratom illegal for people under the age of 18.