National retailer CBD Kratom sues Radnor Township over ordinance

National retailer CBD Kratom sues Radnor Township over ordinance

Some Radnor residents call for a ‘ban’

What also followed the opening — and quick closing — of the CBD Kratom shop was a wave of community pushback. Some residents felt caught off-guard by the store’s launch; some objected to the two substances being sold, neither of which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

When a faction of residents called for a ban on the substances, the Radnor Township Board of Health was asked to weigh in on the matter.

“I actually attempted to speak and read a statement into the record at that [March 7] Board of Health meeting, but was not allowed to by the Board of Health, even though we are vis-à-vis residents of the community as business owners there,” Owens said.

The Board of Health advised against regulation and offered up a report to the township commissioners, who a week later would decide to regulate anyway.

“We know that six states have banned kratom altogether, and other counties and cities have banned kratom altogether, and we know that Delta-8 is regulated in other states and cities. When that happens, that’s usually a red flag,” Rice said.

Owens defended the safety of kratom by pointing to a December announcement by the World Health Organization’s Executive Committee on Drug Dependency that there was insufficient evidence to “recommend a critical review.” Instead, the WHO recommended that kratom be kept at the minimum level of surveillance by regulators.

Rice said the Radnor commissioners wanted to mirror Pennsylvania’s stance on the sale of medical marijuana — not to ban the substances, but to keep them away from children and nearby students.

“It was that simple,” Rice said.

And with CBD Kratom’s chosen location within 1,000 feet of St. Katharine of Siena School, the ordinance enacted forced the company to close shop.

“It’s not just what it’s going to do to us, but it’s what it’s going to do to the customers and the consumers in that area, who were looking forward to having that closer option to be able to utilize this product to help them live their daily lives better. And so, we really are truly disappointed,” Owens said.

Rice said that the township would defend any litigation that comes its way.

Signs at the CBD Kratom store in Radnor, Pa., covered on March 31, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The debate about kratom

Delta-8 is a psychoactive cannabis compound purported to be less potent than some of its other THC counterparts. Though it carries with it some controversy, that pales in comparison to the conversation surrounding kratom.

Supporters of the substance portray it as a cure-all herbal supplement with the potential to help with pain and opioid dependency. Its critics believe it to be a dangerous drug with the potential to harm or even kill its users.

Kratom is essentially derived from an evergreen tree indigenous to several countries in Southeast Asia, where it has been used as a traditional solution for pain and fatigue. The leaves of the tree, usually grounded up into a powdery substance, contain a chemical called mitragynine that is said to have both stimulant and opioid-like properties.

And because of those effects, kratom has grown in popularity as a way to substitute and manage opioid dependency and withdrawal. It also is said to have a positive effect on energy levels.

“It has similar effects, some may say, as far as some of the energy levels it provides, as coffee does. So it’s a very unique product, and it does a lot of good for a lot of different people for a bevy of different reasons,” Owens said.

Yet over the past decade or so that kratom plant has exploded in popularity in the United States, it also has gained its fair share of critics, such as the FDA.

The federal agency’s opposition is clear. The FDA warns people not to use kratom on the grounds that it “affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine” and “appears to have properties that expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.” However, a 2020 user study from Johns Hopkins Medicine found kratom to possibly have “therapeutic effects and relatively low potential for abuse or harm.”

The FDA has not approved kratom for any uses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked kratom to overdose deaths.

Locally, the substance has made headlines for the wrong reasons. In 2018, a West Chester man died from a kratom overdose, and his family ultimately sued the distributor in 2019.

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