First and foremost: YES, natural Kratom is legal in Tennessee. If you’ve been researching Kratom for any longer than a few minutes, you’ve probably learned that Kratom legality varies across the country and around the world. The reasons for this are numerous. And, it would take a lot more than a single article to examine each state and its unique position for or against Kratom. Instead, we’re focusing on a single state with a confusing stance regarding Kratom legality: Tennessee. Broadly speaking, Kratom users in Tennessee can take heart: the plant is generally legal to purchase and possess in its whole leaf, powdered leaf, or encapsulated powdered leaf form. However, there are some stipulations that make Tennessee an outlier as a state that doesn’t have a ‘one law rules all’ method for scheduling or controlling Kratom in all its formats. Understanding the Kratom laws in Tennessee will go a long way in helping Tennessee residents (and those in neighboring states) make informed decisions about their personal Kratom purchasing, possession, and use.
The Last Word on Kratom in Tennessee
Before we dive into how Tennessee Kratom laws could be interpreted, we’re going to start with a direct quote from the Tennessee Office of the Attorney General in a public opinion bulletin dated December 20, 2017. In this bulletin, the Tennessee government is directly answering the following question:
“Does possession of the Kratom plant in its natural botanical form subject a person to potential criminal prosecution under Tennessee law?”
The Office of the Attorney General goes on to answer the question thusly:
“Possession of the Kratom plant in its natural botanical form should not subject a person to potential criminal prosecution under Tennessee law.”
The answer goes on to mention that “The Kratom plant in its natural botanical form is not a prohibited controlled substance under Tennessee law.” At this point, you should be noticing a common theme, namely, the use of the phrase ‘natural botanical form’—a phrase that is of critical importance in our evaluation of Tennessee’s Kratom laws. So, what are we to make of the meaning of ‘natural botanical form’? Does that mean that any Kratom mixed with anything else (i.e., a flavoring) would make it illegal to possess? That would, after all, not be Kratom in its natural form. Or would it? Perhaps you’re now seeing where the confusion lies. The Attorney General submits that because of how Mitragynine and 7-Hydroxymitragynine can affect some users, extracting it and chemically modifying it could present a threat to public health. As evidence for their position here, the Attorney General’s office cites this article published in 2016. It’s important to note that Kats Botanicals makes no specific health-related claims pertaining to the effects of Kratom for the user. So, it’s not our place to say whether or not the Tennessee AG’s office is accurate in their appraisal of Kratom’s effects. What we can say with certainty is that the forms of Kratom we package and distribute from our headquarters in Old Hickory, Tennessee are absolutely, unequivocally natural, botanical forms of Kratom.
…which leads us to the next important topic of discussion: Kratom synthetics.
Synthetic Is As Synthetic Does
We now know that whole leaf, crushed leaf, and powdered leaf Kratom is legal in Tennessee. We also know that products containing whole leaf, crushed leaf, and powdered leaf Kratom are also legal in Tennessee (presuming, of course, that no other illegal substances are included in them). But what about natural plant alkaloids that are intentionally extracted from the Kratom plant? Also known simply as ‘extracts’, most of these substances are still technically ‘all-natural’ in their chemical composition, but the way they are manufactured requires the use of highly specialized laboratory equipment and an advanced understanding of biochemistry. And, in some cases, commercial botanical extraction can mean slightly modifying the resulting compound. It’s this last part that, for the state of Tennessee, makes Kratom extracts problematic. Tennessee’s formal position on Kratom extracts (what they term as ‘synthetic’ Kratom) is:
“Tennessee prohibits the possession, sale, manufacture, and distribution of capsules, pills, and other products that contain a synthetic form of mitragynine or hydroxymitragynine.”
Put in simpler terms, Kratom extracts that include chemically modified Mitragynine or 7-Hydroxymitragynine are illegal in Tennessee. The reason is because the Mitragynine or 7-Hydroxymitragynine alkaloids would not be in their natural, botanical form (i.e., crushed leaf, whole leaf, or powdered leaf Kratom).
The law spelling out the extraction techniques in question is Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-452. And the state expounds on this law by adding:
“…Only certain specified man-made, synthetic forms of mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine are controlled substances within the scope of Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-452. Mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine occur naturally in the Kratom plant and have not been derived through one of the modification processes specified inTenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-452(a), [and they] do not fall within the prohibited categories under the statute.”
One question you might be asking is, “Why would someone want to create a synthetic form of Mitragynine or Hydroxymitragynine when there’s plenty of these alkaloids in the Kratom leaf?”
There are at least two reasons:
- It might be easier on a large enough scale.
- Chemically modified Mitragynine might be more stable.
Regardless of the reasons why someone might want to chemically modify these alkaloids, the fact remains: Tennessee has banned it and the laws in the state aren’t changing anytime soon.