Did you know that Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday back in 1836? If you’re a fan of terrestrial mollusks, you might enjoy knowing that 43% of all snails in the United States live in Alabama. Now, you may or may not know that bear wrestling is illegal in Alabama—but chances are, that’s not the Alabama law you came here to learn about.
So, since you probably came here to find out about the legality of kratom in Alabama, you’re in the right place (if you’re here to learn about bear legislation, you might want to turn around). We’re here to cover the past and present Alabama kratom laws for you, as well as the future outlook on the legal status of kratom in Alabama.
So, is kratom legal in Alabama? The answer is no; it is currently illegal to possess, sell, or buy kratom in Alabama. However, laws are subject to change, and there are thousands of advocates in the kratom community fighting to legalize kratom across the US. Will you ever be able to buy kratom in Alabama? Well, let’s start by taking an in-depth look at Alabama’s kratom legislation.
Overview of Alabama Kratom Laws: When Did Alabama Ban Kratom?
Before trying to determine what the future may hold for the legality of kratom in Alabama, let’s look at the legal history of kratom in the state.
Although Alabama is one of the few states where kratom is illegal, it was not one of the earliest states to schedule kratom. As a matter of fact, Alabama was the sixth and final state to ban kratom. Before 2016, kratom was legal in Alabama. It wasn’t until May of 2016 that Governor Robert Bently signed Senate Bill 226, making it illegal to sell, possess, or buy kratom in Alabama.
Although the Alabama Senate Bill 226 didn’t originally list kratom as a controlled substance, the bill was amended to include two of kratom’s alkaloids, mitragynine and hydroxymitraginine. According to the Ninth Circuit District Attorney Mike O’Dell, Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter and Senator Steve Livingston helped pass the bill by bringing kratom to his attention. While SB226 doesn’t mention the word “kratom” specifically, the inclusion of these two alkaloids in a list of controlled substances effectively makes it a felony to possess kratom products of any kind, including kratom tea bags.
Frustratingly, the bill categorizes mitragynine and hydroxymitraginine as “synthetic substances,” which is scientifically inaccurate. Both alkaloids are naturally occurring compounds found in the dried leaves of the kratom tree. However, other states that have banned kratom also have incorrectly categorized the plant and its alkaloids. It’s not even unheard of to find misspellings in legislation pertaining to kratom; for example, the new Indiana kratom bill misspells “mitragynine.”
Penalties for Selling, Possessing, or Buying Kratom in Alabama
So, what exactly does Alabama SB 226 entail? Well, first of all, it makes kratom a Schedule I controlled substance in Alabama. This classification allows Alabama authorities to press the same charges for kratom as they would for other Schedule I substances. This includes drugs such as methamphetamine and heroin. The fees and penalties for violating the law vary by the weight of kratom and the offense.
If you get caught in possession of the kratom for personal use, it’s a Class C felony. Depending on the amount in possession, you could face 1–10 years in jail and have to pay a fine of up to $15,000. If it’s your second time getting caught in possession of kratom, you can expect 2–20 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000.
You can be charged with drug trafficking for being caught with 4 ounces of kratom. Even if you’re carrying a small amount of kratom, you shouldn’t visit or drive through Alabama. Driving through any state where kratom is illegal poses significant risks, and Alabama’s sanctions are particularly harsh.
So, Why is Kratom Banned in Alabama?
Whenever a state schedules kratom—especially as late as 2016—it’s pretty jarring to think about the toll that the decision can have on the citizens that the state government is supposedly trying to protect. On one day, Alabama residents are freely exercising their right to buy kratom in their state. The next, they could find themselves facing Class D felony charges and multiple years in prison for kratom possession.
So, why did Alabama ban kratom? The main reason legislators criminalized kratom in Alabama is that they were expecting a federal kratom ban in 2016. Earlier that year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had announced its plans to change kratom’s legal status to a Schedule I controlled substance.
However, the DEA was faced with an ardent outcry from tens of thousands of kratom supporters. In response, the DEA withdrew their plan to Schedule kratom. Nevertheless, the Alabama kratom ban passed, and kratom remains scheduled in Alabama to this day. The kratom community in Alabama rallied together in an effort to fight back. They lost, though the spirit of their fight still persists to this day.
Public Reaction to the Ban in 2016
When news of a possible kratom ban in Alabama reached the public, many kratom advocates lent their voices to fight against it. Opponents of the Kratom bill suggested that instead of passing a ban, Alabama should regulate kratom. Efforts to prevent the Alabama kratom included several pro-kratom petitions as well as press releases against the ban. Kratom defenders even gathered at the State House to share their testimonies and fight the pending ban.
Unfortunately, the police gave residents little time to prepare for the decision. In a matter of mere hours after Governor Bently signed SB 226 into law, the Tuscaloosa police had already begun raiding local businesses that were selling kratom and confiscating it. They declared that by the following day, they would begin arresting and prosecuting people for the possession, distribution, or manufacture of kratom.
Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin stated, “This is fair warning to those who sell or possess this product. Get rid of it or go to jail.” [In 2018, Sheriff Entrekin was found to have pocketed over $700,000 worth of government funds allocated to feed inmates in the Etowah County jail.] Mike O’Dell echoed Entrekin’s warning. O’Dell said that although he hoped that merchants would cooperate voluntarily, the public should rest assured knowing that officers “will be aggressive in identifying and handling violations.”
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Fortunately, officers inspecting businesses for kratom were surprised to find that the next day, there wasn’t much kratom out there. Apparently, word got out, and businesses had enough time to take kratom off the shelves before it became illegal. In spite of the ban’s swift and aggressive enforcement, the kratom community’s strong communication reduced the number of potential Alabama kratom arrests.
Future Outlook: Will Kratom Ever Be Legal in the State?
Currently, the situation regarding kratom in Alabama remains devastating. The list of Alabama kratom arrests continues to grow. Even recently, a woman was arrested in Alabama for kratom possession. She was driving through the state from Florida, where it is legal to buy kratom.
Still, the fight to legalize kratom in Alabama isn’t over. One of the American Kratom Association’s (AKA) goals is to replace existing kratom bans with bills to regulate kratom. It’s not impossible for this to happen in Alabama.
How You Can Help
To help fight the kratom ban in Alabama, you can stay up to date with kratom news and research. You can sign up for the AKA’s updates, joining r/Kratom on Reddit, or subscribe to our newsletter. Furthermore, by buying from vendors who support the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, you can contribute to advocacy to regulate kratom.
A number of Alabama residents continue doing their part to educate, raise awareness, and fight for kratom in their state. The issue of kratom regulation over criminalization in Alabama isn’t just relevant to Alabamans, however. It’s relevant to all members of the kratom community across the globe.
No matter where you are, you can help changes people’s minds and reduce misinformation about kratom.