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Supply-and-demand cycle shaken by on-again-off-again kratom ban

By Nicholas Porath
Nov. 24, 2016

Veteran users of the herbal supplement kratom may be changing their habits in the wake of a Drug Enforcement Administration announcement that it would reclassify the drug as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, according to employees of tobacco and vape stores across the Wasatch Front.

But in the wake of the DEA’s decision to halt its ban — which was set to take effect on Oct. 1 — a new group of customers appears to have materialized.

“Sales have slowed down from the original customers a bit, but the supposed ban actually advertised it for us,” said Alicia Kirschman, a sales associate at One Stop Smoke Shop in Ogden. “I get so many calls asking if we sell kratom. I get a lot of people asking what it is, and why they were trying to make it Schedule 1. People are trying it just because it was almost illegal. I’m definitely seeing it become more recreational.”

Those who have used kratom for years — the substance has been used in traditional cultures to relieve pain, and as an energy and mood enhancer — were stocking up before October, but also seeking alternatives, said Joshua Hatch, a sales associate at Timberline Smoke Shop in Logan.

“When we were getting close to the ban things were crazy,” Hatch said. “People were trying to buy kilos of the stuff and were trying to switch to different products, but then the ban didn't go through.”

Hatch said he figured sales would go up after that, “but they didn’t for some reason.”

That might be due to the fact that users are going through the stockpiles they bought before the ban, have settled on other products, or were scared away by the DEA’s warnings that kratom could be dangerous.

Hatch has noticed the companies from which Timberline purchases kratom have been much more cautious since the proposed ban.

“The companies are scared,” Hatch said. “Some companies just quit and closed shop before the ban which helps the ones that are still in business. It’s been interesting to say the least.”

The Blue Sphynx in Providence has also seen a slight drop in sales from regular customers.

“We’re still in the process of trying to get ourselves restocked, but not going overboard because it is still going to be discussed here in December,” General manager Fred Done said. “It’s one of those things where we are still in a bit of limbo. It still hurts a little bit, but it hasn’t been too bad.”

The DEA is holding a public commenting period on kratom until Dec 1.