LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada lawmakers are proposing a ban on kratom, an herbal opioid-like drug that “affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Kratom is produced from a plant that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The FDA placed it on a list of unapproved drugs in 2012, and now reports it is actively evaluating kratom, but there are no FDA-approved uses at this time.
Assembly Bill 322 (AB322) would ban kratom unless the Nevada Board of Oriental Medicine lists it as a registered product. The bill was introduced Thursday, effectively delegating the decision to the state board on which substances will be permitted and which ones will be banned.
But the bill also eliminates the civil penalty — a fine of up to $1,000 — and sets violations as misdemeanor offenses.
A kratom dealer in the Las Vegas valley was not aware of the proposal to ban the substance, but said the government has tried and failed to ban it before.
“Kratom saves lives,” according to Anja Wenzel, owner of the Natural Life store in Henderson, near S. Eastern Avenue and W. Horizon Ridge Parkway. She said the government wants to ban it because it cuts into profits of the prescription opioid industry.
“Kratom has a lot of benefits if you know how to dose it and how to take it,” Wenzel said. She said she is a certified wellness coach who can help people take kratom properly. She said the product is available at smoke shops, but they don’t have the experience needed to make sure people use it properly.
AB322 would prohibit “preparing, distributing, advertising, selling or offering to sell a kratom product,” according to a bill summary.
The Nevada Legislature is also considering legalizing “magic mushrooms” — psilocybin or psilocin, in amounts smaller than 4 ounces.
When the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced in 2016 that it was planning to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 drug, there was a public backlash, according to U.S. Pharmacist, a monthly journal for pharmacists. The DEA backed off its plans.
“Kratom has long been used to relieve pain and ease opiate withdrawal in parts of Asia,” the journal reported at the time. “It is available in the United States in many forms, including dried/crushed leaves, powder, capsules, tablets, liquids, and gum/resin; the most common route of administration is ingestion as a brewed tea, although smoking, chewing the raw leaves, and the ingestion of extracts have also been reported.
The journal reported that kratom “has become an increasingly popular alternative therapy and drug of abuse and is readily available on the recreational drug market in the U.S.”
The bill’s primary sponsors are Democrats Duy Nguyen, Steve Yeager and Cecilia Gonzalez, all from Clark County, along with Republican Senator Ira Hansen.