California is the land of abundance: larger-than-life movie stars, world-famous theme parks, and an industry-leading tech sector. It’s a place where you can sunbathe at the beach and ski in the mountains on the same day. But where does kratom fit into all of that abundance? Is kratom legal in California? And what do buyers need to know? As it turns out, there are actually a few important things you need to consider before buying kratom in California.
The Legal Status of Kratom in California
Kratom is legal in California. There are no restrictions imposed by the state, and there have never been any major efforts to ban kratom in California. However, individual cities and counties reserve the right to enact their own laws and restrictions, and two cities have done just that.
Currently, kratom is illegal to possess in the southern coastal cities of San Diego and Oceanside. If you reside in or visit either of these cities, you’ll need to avoid purchasing or possessing kratom anywhere within city limits.
The San Diego Kratom Ban
Kratom has been illegal in San Diego since 2016, when the city council passed an ordinance banning kratom alongside bath salts, spice, and other so-called “synthetic and psychoactive drugs”—all of which are classified as Schedule I controlled substances in the city.
Unfortunately, the San Diego City Council acted on bad science (refer to the latest kratom research) and a lack of understanding about what kratom is and how it functions. Although synthetic alkaloids have been developed in labs (and should be avoided at all costs), all-natural kratom products contain no synthetic alkaloids or ingredients. And while it’s technically accurate to call kratom a “psychoactive drug,” the same is true of caffeine. In fact, kratom is a distant cousin of the coffee plant. Banning all-natural kratom makes no more sense than banning pumpkin spice lattes.
So the San Diego kratom ban is problematic for many reasons, but it remains in place all the same. And residents and visitors need to be aware of it.
The Oceanside Kratom Ban
Around the same time that San Diego banned kratom in 2016, the neighboring city of Oceanside did the same—using much of the same language and problematic logic. Kratom was one of 94 “psychoactive” substances listed in the Oceanside ban, ostensibly targeted because the DEA had called it a drug of concern.
It’s true that, around this time, the Drug Enforcement Administration had its sights on kratom and was even intending to list its primary alkaloids (mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine) as Schedule I Controlled Substances. However, in 2017, the DEA halted efforts to ban the substance in light of severe public outcry. Advocacy organizations like the American Kratom Association (AKA) organized petitions and rallied scientists to speak on behalf of the many benefits that kratom offers—while debunking many of the widespread safety myths.
As of this writing, the DEA has no stated plans to schedule kratom, and even the World Health Organization has advised against an international kratom ban. Still, the Oceanside kratom ban remains in effect.
Other Efforts to Ban Kratom in California
Just as the cities of San Diego and Oceanside have banned kratom, San Diego County recently tried to do the same. The move would have had major implications. San Diego and Oceanside comprise about 1.5 million residents, but that’s still less than half the population of San Diego County as a whole.
In 2020, San Diego County supervisors came close to declaring kratom a public nuisance. The effort was paused after users spoke out about how kratom had helped them, but the matter was by no means resolved. The Board of Supervisors tasked county agencies to present a list of options, one of which involved banning kratom outright. After some delays, no major changes to the law were implemented.
Still, if San Diego County reverses course, or if there are any other legal challenges to kratom in California, we will provide those updates as they become available.
Regulating Kratom in California
We know that kratom is legal in California, but the state’s hands-off approach hasn’t been entirely positive. Just as there have been no major efforts to ban kratom, there have also been no efforts to regulate it. As a result, there may be a lot of poor-quality kratom on store shelves in California.
To ensure that you’re getting a high-quality product:
- Buy kratom online. It’s usually a safer bet to buy your kratom online because online-based vendors must adhere to the strictest kratom regulations if they want to sell nationwide (and some states, like Utah, have very strict regulations in place).
- Avoid buying kratom in convenience stores, gas stations, head shops, and similar retail stores. Not only will you typically pay more, but it’s much harder to know what kind of product you’re getting.
- Research the brand before buying. Where do they get their kratom? What are buyers saying about them? How long have they been in business?
- Only buy all-natural kratom. Avoid anything that’s synthetic, adulterated, or otherwise tampered with. You want whole-leaf kratom straight from Southeast Asia.
Also, if a kratom vendor is willing to ship to San Diego or Oceanside, that’s a huge red flag. If they’re willing to ignore the laws about kratom legality, you have to wonder what other laws they’re ignoring. When buying kratom in California or anywhere else, it’s important to work with a brand you can trust.
Order Kratom Online
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At The Kratom Company, we’re passionate about quality and safety. So whether you live up north in the Shasta or Redding areas or down south in L.A. or the Inland Empire, let us be your vendor of choice. Discover why The Kratom Company is No. 1.