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Local stores preparing for — and lamenting — kratom ban

By Nicholas Porath

With a ban on kratom approaching, tobacco and vape stores carrying the product across the Wasatch Front are preparing to get rid of remaining stock. 

The herbal supplement, made from the leaves of a tree in the coffee family, is set to be banned by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency after Sept. 30, and the stores have until that day to sell their remaining supplies.

The Blue Sphinx in Providence is offering a 50 percent off promotion on kratom to quickly get rid of the remainder in its store.

General manager Fred Done isn’t happy about the ban, which will place the active chemicals in the plant in the Schedule 1 category of controlled substances alongside heroin, marijuana, LSD and ecstasy.

Done said the ban will hurt a lot of his customers.

“There’s a lot of benefits from it,” he said. “We have had a lot of people that came in that had pins in their hips, knees or back. It’s an all-herbal remedy and they didn’t have to worry about the euphoria or other addictive properties of narcotic prescriptions, so it’s going to be hard for them to go back to that.”

Done blames drug companies for the switch. “I think it’s big pharmaceuticals wanting their share of money," he said. “That is the only reason it is going to be banned.”

For its part, the DEA has said the temporary ban “is necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety” stemming from kratom’s rapidly increasing use over the past few years. The ban is intended to give researchers time to study the drug's risks and effects. If no further action is taken by the DEA, the ban would end in two years.

Timberline Smoke Shop in Logan has cancelled all of its incoming orders since the ban was announced. According to manager Anna Naegle, the store is not planning to offer any discounts at this time, but if it still has stock the week before the ban, then the store may have a sale to get rid of its remaining product.

One Stop Smoke Shop in Ogden is considering a price drop for customers who want to stock up on kratom before the ban.

According to employee Alicia Kirschman, the store plans to have all of its kratom sold or out of the building by Sept. 25.

“It’s extremely popular, and them talking about banning it on the news has been quite the advertisement for us,” Kirschman said. “I think this ban is ridiculous.”

Kratom, she said, “has helped people get off of heroin and opiates. The government just can’t control or make money off of it.”

A petition to reconsider the ban had nearly 130,000 signatures as of noon on Friday.