Conflicting positions on kratom and CBD products among law enforcement and health care professionals apparently will not stop people from using the products in ever increasing numbers.
That will likely mean more people will be selling CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, and kratom products. The owners of CBD Kratom, who recently opened a new store in Arlington in the face of pronouncements from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office that it would prosecute those illegally using CBD products, say they are excited about the potential for growth.
“There is a need for more CBD production and shops in the U.S.,” said Dafna Revah, one of the owners of CBD Kratom. “Our customers are constantly asking us for more locations, more product variety and different ways to try CBD. We will continue to open shops as long as there continues to be a demand for them.”
The entrepreneurs who made the call to open the new Arlington store on March 4 have also pushed forward with the aggressive marketing of kratom, a plant based opioid-like painkiller that federal government officials tried to ban in 2016.
The husband and wife partnership that owns the CBD Kratom stores, Revah and David Palatnik, also own a chain of head shops based out of St. Louis. The two business owners have built a business model around CBD and Kratom products and have 16 locations in Texas, Missouri, California and Illinois, with plans to open more.
“We are opening another location in Chicago in two weeks and will open another one in St. Louis in the beginning of April,” Revah said Tuesday. “We plan to expand throughout the entire 2019 year. We are on track to open one new store per month.”
The two entrepreneurs own Mr. Nice Guy head shops in St. Louis and Chicago although there are other head shops with the same name that they are not associated with, Revah said. Revah and Palatnik estimate the market for CBD products will be worth $20 billion by 2020, and the American Kratom Association estimates that more than 5 million people in the United States use kratom.
Revah considers all the sales of CBD and kratom products made in her stores 100 percent legal and said all the research she has reviewed has shown the products to be beneficial.
“We have never had any issues with local law enforcement,” she said. “We would not choose to operate in a place where any product would be illegal.”
Buyers and sellers are both looking forward to more research on the two products, Revah said.
“Of course we got concerned when we read about what the DA said. We wondered if the store would still open,” said Melissa Romero, CBD Kratom Arlington store manager. “But our owners said it’s still a go.”
Consumers who are also concerned about arrests for possession of CBD products are cautioned to not open the product until they arrive at home and to keep the receipt so they can show they purchased the product from a reputable retailer, Romero said.
“We had one customer who told us he was stopped but he was let go with a warning,” Romero said.
Romero, who said she suffered from anxiety and depression before working for CBD Kratom and using kratom herself, had nothing but positive things to say about the products she sold.
“I used melatonin, Zoloft and could not find anything that worked for me until I started working here,” Romero said.
According to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, only a small percentage of Texans who suffer from a specific form of intractable epilepsy can legally possess CBD products. Kratom is legal to use in Texas and in most of the United States. However, there have been and continue to be efforts to make possession of kratom illegal, and its use and sale has been banned in several jurisdictions.
Each product class has a large and growing customer base, as well as its detractors.
Kratom, often described as an opioid substitute, comes from a plant that grows naturally in southeast Asia and is currently being evaluated by officials with the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency. In September , the FDA issued a warning letter stating kratom is — “already illegal or controlled in several other countries including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malaysia and Thailand. The substance is also banned in a number of states and municipalities in the U.S.”
But according to David Herman, president of the American Kratom Association, which he described as a non-profit consumer advocacy group, the fears of government officials are misplaced and the science those officials are using to evaluate kratom is flawed.
Government officials are doing exactly what it would take to make kratom dangerous, Herman said.
“When you ban a product that people want you create a black market and people die,” Herman said. “There is no basis for people to claim that kratom is a danger to people. Kratom has been used for more than 200 years in Asia without a single reported death.”
Herman said instead of trying to ban kratom the agency should be trying to regulate it. There is a positive role that the FDA can assume that people would support, but the agency is wasting time trying to outlaw the plant instead of trying to study it, Herman said.
“No one who is trying to sell this product is unaware of the effort to make this plant illegal,” Herman said. “We rest on the science. There is no scientific data that shows that kratom kills people. It just does not exist.”
Since May 6, 2017, three deaths investigated by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office have been associated with kratom, or, as a reference to one of the active ingredients in the plant, mytragynine intoxication. All three deaths were ruled accidental and the cause in two of those deaths was listed as mixed drug intoxication, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
And the FDA does not agree with Herman that kratom is harmless.
According to the FDA, there have been “adverse event reports of 64 deaths involving kratom. The reports were received by the agency between January 2011 and April 30, 2018. Of these reports, the FDA has determined that 47 deaths may be kratom-related. Upon additional assessment of the deaths reported, the FDA has determined that 17 of the 64 deaths reported (some of which were reported as suicides), were not likely caused by kratom. “
Others who are not government officials are also concerned about the sales of CBD and Kratom.
Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab, a privately held company that uses independent laboratories to determine the quality of health and nutrition products, said his concerns around CBD products have evolved from the fact that the products are for the most part, unregulated.
Three of the 19 CBD products ConsumerLabs tested listed the amount of CBD content incorrectly on their labeling. Consumers should also be aware that using some CBD products can cause of positive THC drug test result.
State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, who is largely responsible for the 2015 Compassionate Use Act that made possessing CBD oil legal for some in Texas, is also concerned about the lack of oversight for CBD products and is working for the passage of legislation that will expand the use of and place more safeguards on the product manufacturing and testing processes.
In Utah, 52 CBD users were believed to be poisoned last year. At least nine samples showed the oil they used was falsely labeled as CBD. Last year in Houston, police raided smoke shops to confiscate CBD oil that earlier tests showed included the same chemical found in the illegal drug known as kush. And Klick said other reports have shown some CBD oils sold contained Viagra and others ended up just being olive oil.
While Cooperman said most CBD products are safe to try, he did not have the same opinion regarding kratom products.
“Personally, I would avoid it,” Cooperman said of kratom. “I think there is potential for abuse. It’s been associated with all sorts of bad things.”
This story includes information from Star-Telegram archives