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Is Kratom Legal in California?

Did you know it’s illegal to wear high heels in Carmel, California? Indeed, since 1963, the municipal code of this California city bans wearing shoes with heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch—unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them. (In case you’re wondering, the point of this rule is to prevent high-heeled shoe wearers from stumbling over uneven ground and then suing the city).

Obviously, like most states, California has a number of strange laws and local ordinances. But we can talk all about pulling over for peacocks and flying a kite less than ten feet off the ground another day—you’re probably here to find out, Is kratom legal in California?” (If that’s not why you’re here, you might be lost. We’re here for you either way.)

The state has legalized cannabis, but can you buy kratom in California? Well, let’s find out. Time to dive into everything you need to know about California kratom laws!

Is Kratom Legal in California State? Or Are There Any Exceptions?

In spite of kratom’s booming popularity in the US, states have struggled to adopt a uniform regulatory procedure. From state to state, county to county, and even city to city—kratom laws may differ. Due to the lack of federal regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), kratom laws and product regulations are left to the smaller state and local regulatory bodies.

The answer to “Is kratom legal in California?” itself reflects some of this disorganization. Is kratom legal in California state? Yes. Is kratom legal in California state-wide? No. The full answer is that kratom is legal in California—except for a few locations. There are a couple of cities in California with active kratom bans.

As of 2023, the California state legislature has not passed any kratom bans. However, two cities in California banned kratom: San Diego (population: 1,410,000 residents) and Oceanside (population: 175,000 residents). Both San Diego and Oceanside are located in San Diego County. The fact that kratom is illegal in these California cities means that almost 1.6 million California residents are denied access to the popular Southeast Asian herb.

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California Kratom Bans

Those asking, “Is kratom legal in California?” should definitely remember the cities “San Diego” and “Oceanside” as exceptions. These are the only cities in California to ban kratom.

Much like the legality of kratom in Florida, where Sarasota County has elected to ban kratom despite it being legal in the state, the cities of San Diego banned kratom through a local ordinance. However, Florida lawmakers recently pushed to regulate kratom, which would provide a number of consumer protections that we’ll get into later. Once the new kratom regulation bill (which is called the Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act) takes effect, it would remove the kratom ban in Sarasota County.

Due to these two cities banning kratom, a number of California kratom vendors have popped up in clusters in the neighboring cities of Carlsbad and La Mesa. You can go ahead and buy kratom in California in other cities; just make sure you don’t bring it back to the cities of San Diego or Oceanside, where possessing any amount of kratom is illegal.

San Diego Kratom Ban

Since Tuesday, June 14, 2016, the San Diego City Council approved an ordinance stating that it “prohibits the manufacturing, sale, distribution, and possession of spice, bath salts, kratom, and other synthetic and psychoactive drugs.”

The ordinance passed on a 6-0 council vote and took effect immediately, making it illegal for anyone to possess, sell, or buy kratom in San Diego, California. Leading up to the ban, kratom was never mentioned during any of the public hearings, yet by June 15, anyone found possessing it would suddenly be subject to arrest and could face fines anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

These local laws became effective immediately, with no time for residents of San Diego to fight back.

Even more frustratingly, it is clear that those in charge of this decision to ban kratom in San Diego did not know much about the plant, as they list it with “other synthetic and psychoactive drugs.” Well, as most scientists and kratom enthusiasts know, kratom comes from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree. Pure kratom products come from the leaves of the kratom tree. Kratom is completely all-natural and has been harvested for centuries—if not millennia, making kratom a far cry from a synthetic drug.

In spite of heavy resistance from local Californian kratom consumers, the San Diego City Council passed the ordinance in the San Diego municipal code.

Oceanside Kratom Ban

Kratom is officially prohibited within the city limits of Oceanside under Article VII of the Oceanside City Code of Ordinance. This ban includes buying, purchasing, or even possessing kratom as long as you are within the city’s borders.

Using similar reasoning and verbiage to San Diego’s kratom ban, the Oceanside ordinance again erroneously compares the all-natural plant to Schedule 1 “novel psychoactive synthetic drugs.” Ignorantly likening kratom to synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts, the Oceanside City Council even banned kratom as a “synthetic drug.” Though this categorization completely contradicts the science, there’s no loophole to this California city’s kratom ban. Any violation of Oceanside’s Article VII can result in a fine of up to $500 for each individual infraction.

Vendors violating provisions of Article VII run the risk of losing their business license, as well as the additional $500 misdemeanor possession charge.

Attempted Kratom Ban in San Diego County

The story of San Diego and legal proceedings against kratom does not stop there. In 2020, The San Diego County Board of Supervisors stopped just short of declaring kratom a “public nuisance” and attempting to ban kratom in all of San Diego County.

In a vote of 4-1, with only board member Kristin Gaspar opposing, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors instructed county agencies to consult and come up with “options” for handling the legal status of kratom in California’s second most populated county.

Gaspar argued the hypocrisy of a city ban on kratom. She shed light on the troubling fact that a board who knew little about the science behind kratom was in charge of making decisions about it, saying, “A week ago, you could have asked me about kratom, and I would have thought it’s a popular rapper. She also questioned the county’s intent in banning kratom, stating, “If the FDA or (Drug Enforcement Administration) aren’t regulating (kratom), why is the county going down this road?” After all, if there was no evidence of harm sufficient for a federal ban, why would the city take such drastic measures?

While the board voted in favor of hearing out “options,” ultimately, the county-wide kratom ban never came to be in San Diego County. So, while kratom is illegal in California cities Oceanside and San Diego, residents are free to buy, possess, and sell kratom in the rest of San Diego county, including National City, Santee, Escondido, Vista, Spring Valley El Cajon, and Chula Vista La Mesa.

Can You Ship Kratom to San Diego and Oceanside?

Now we know what our readers must be thinking. Wouldn’t it be simple to just ship kratom to California via an online vendor and have it shipped discreetly to your home? Well, yes, you can buy kratom online and ship it to California—just not the cities of San Diego or Oceanside, where kratom is illegal, regardless of where you bought it.

Any vendors willing to ignore state, county, and city ordinances in pursuit of profit certainly do not care about the integrity of their products. This is definitely one of the major signs of a bad kratom vendor that you should stay away from at all costs. Vendors with this mindset are less likely to offer lab-tested kratom and are more likely to partake in other shady cost-reducing practices that could ultimately compromise their product quality and safety.

(On a related note, if you don’t live in a city where kratom is banned and are looking to buy kratom online, find out why you should never buy kratom tea bags on Amazon if you come across any!)

Kratom Regulation in California

You now know kratom is mostly legal in California. The question remains: is kratom regulated in California? The answer to this important question is “no.” Although there have been proposals, official legislation at the state level has never come to fruition.

With kratom not being regulated by the FDA at the federal level, it’s up to states to determine if they want to regulate it for consumer safety. While more and more states have been passing regulatory guidelines according to the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA), the California state legislature has of yet not made any proposal to regulate kratom,

Given that kratom is legal in California everywhere except for two cities, it’s a bit alarming that the state has not taken any measures to ensure that kratom products sold within its borders be lab-tested, properly labeled, or held to certain quality standards. Furthermore, without state regulation, there are no age restrictions to buy kratom in California; instead, it’s up to vendors to do the responsible thing and refuse to sell kratom to minors.

Where to Buy Kratom in California (And What to Look For)

Without state or federal oversight, we strongly recommend that anyone looking to buy kratom in California takes a close look at which kratom brands to buy. Always check to ensure that your local (or online) vendor that supports the Kratom Consumer Protection Act and has taken it upon themselves to follow regulatory guidelines even if not required by the state.

Furthermore, we recommend avoiding kratom from gas stations, headshops, and other stores without first researching the brand. You should know the signs of a bad kratom vendor to stay away from them at all costs. It really is better to know exactly what you’re buying and ensure that the kratom company cares about customers’ transparency and safety—not just profit.

If you’re a California resident still wary of buying unregulated kratom, we suggest you try our premium kratom tea bags for sale. We lab-test all of our kratom products and follow regulatory standards for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards, as well as transparent labeling and instructions. We also require that buyers be over 18 years of age.

In addition, our kratom tea is 100% natural and pure, with different herbal varieties available that are blended with organic herbs. While kratom is still unregulated, we set the bar high for ensuring safety and quality from farm to packaging.

Stay Informed! We recommend checking the American Kratom Association’s (AKA) mailing list to stay up-to-date with the latest kratom laws.

Will Kratom Be Legal in California (Everywhere)? Here’s What You Can Do

We always recommend knowing your state’s kratom laws, and we recommend that anyone in the kratom community do what they can to advocate for this plant—even if it simply means sharing an educational article. You can sign up to the American Kratom Association’s (AKA) mailing list to stay up-to-date with the latest kratom laws and regularly check out our informational blog posts.

Ideally, the answer to “Is kratom legal in California?” will one day be a resounding “yes,” without exceptions. So, what can you do to help make this become a reality?

The answer is that our best bet at making kratom legal in San Diego and Oceanside (as well as preventing any other local kratom bans in California) is to get the California State Legislature to regulate kratom

Remember how the passing of the Florida Kratom Consumer Protection Act removed the local kratom ban in Sarasota County? Well, if a state kratom regulation bill passes both the California Senate and House of Representatives, once it takes effect, it could likely make kratom legal in all of California. The next step for activists is to push lawmakers to introduce a version of the California Kratom Consumer Protection Act. 

Contact Your Representatives and Local Officials

To help out, we recommend that you:

  • Contact your California representatives and encourage them to introduce a bill to regulate kratom according to the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. Be sure to let them know why regulation is important for the safety of kratom consumers in the state. To learn more about the importance of kratom regulation, you can check out our article on why we support the KCPA

Lastly, if you live in San Diego or Oceanside, you can contact local leadership to try to address the bans.

While kratom may be banned in these cities, it’s never too late to fight to reverse it and make kratom legal in California statewide! Thank you again for reading—we hope you found our answer to “Is kratom legal in California” to be thorough and enlightening. Feel free to browse our other kratom news and legality articles in the Better Brewing Blog, check out our kratom tea recipes, or explore or products. As always, cheers to better brewing!

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Eric Smith
Eric Smith is a writer and kratom-tea drinker from Morgantown, West Virginia. He channels his passion for psychology and sociology into written work about law, historical teas, and his favorite herbal blends. When he’s not behind a keyboard, Eric enjoys staying active, exploring history, and indulging his wanderlust by visiting exciting new destinations.

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