Denver To Lift Ban On Kratom

Photo: Kratom Jeremy Haley 1
Jeremy Haley, the owner of Rocky Mountain Kratom, stands in front of a display at his new store, Artisans Apothecary, on Broadway and Alameda.

Denver will soon lift its ban on a natural substance, known as kratom, used for its pain relief properties.

Denver's Department of Environmental Health had closed a local kratom business -- one of only a few in the country -- because of a looming ban from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Much outrage followed, especially in online forums. And this week, the DEA announced it was dropping that plan.

"We want to take a balanced approach here to the concerns that were brought to our attention," said Bob McDonald, executive director for the city's Department of Environmental Health. "The product still needs further evaluation. We’re comfortable releasing it, but [we will be] keeping an eye on the situation."

Kratom is made from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree, and is most commonly powdered and swallowed, or made into a tea. Supporters say it’s helpful for chronic pain, anxiety and depression, and can aid in withdrawal from opioids.

McDonald said Denver's hold on local businesses would be released next week. Jeremy Haley, who owns Rocky Mountain Kratom in Denver, did not immediately return a call for comment.

The DEA had planned to temporarily label kratom as a Schedule I substance -- the same category as heroin, and considered worse than methamphetamine.

The DEA said the reason for the emergency scheduling was due to evidence that abuse of kratom is rising. They cite 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2015, and 660 calls to the Poison Control Center related to kratom exposure between 2010 and 2015.