The appointed officials who advise on alcohol and tobacco sales in Naperville don’t want another substance, called kratom, to fall under their purview.
Liquor commissioners on Thursday proposed the city prohibit the sale of kratom, citing concerns about its opioid-like properties and medical research about its potential negative effects.
Kratom is derived from the leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia. Users can steep the leaves into teas, blend them into smoothies or seek out kratom in pill or extract form.
Dr. Aaron Weiner, director of addiction services for Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville, says a review of the relatively limited medical research on kratom shows it is a psychoactive substance that affects neurotransmitters in the brain but produces different effects based on the quantity used.
In small doses, Weiner said kratom acts as a stimulant, similar to cocaine. In large doses, he said it functions similarly to an opioid, decreasing pain and producing pleasure. It can be habit-forming.
“Clearly there are a range of negative reactions that one can have to it. Definitely addiction is one of them,” Weiner said. “There is both a tolerance and withdrawal syndrome.”
The liquor commission moved to ban kratom sales after the operator of a chain of shops that sells kratom in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and St. Louis sought to open a location in Naperville.
David Palatnik of CBD Kratom shops said there is “a lot of misinformation” about kratom, which he sees as a beneficial remedy.
“I think kratom is great,” Palatnik said. “I think it should be sold everywhere.”
But on Thursday, he dropped his request to sell kratom in Naperville, seeking to move forward only with selling cannabidiol products, known as CBD, which are produced from hemp and contain only trace amounts of THC, the mind-altering and high-producing component of cannabis.
The liquor commission bought more time to consider that request, tabling it until more legal and medical research can be compiled to define CBD, differentiate it if necessary from products sold as “hemp oil,” and clarify how the substance is referred to in the city code.
Regardless of how the commission acts on Palatnik’s request, Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said the city needs to clean up its ordinance language related to CBD.
“The more I hear about this, the more confusing it is,” Chirico said.
Speaking on behalf of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Colin Dalough, director of government affairs and business development, agreed clarity is needed.
“I have members that are interested in selling CBD but are interested in having a clear statement from the city on what is legal and what is not,” Dalough said.
Liquor commissioners plan to weigh in later about CBD but didn’t hesitate to chime in and recommend the city council prohibit kratom sales. The suggested ban meets the approval of Weiner, who said kratom should be restricted more widely.
“The question is why isn’t it regulated?” he said about kratom, which the federal Drug Enforcement Administration chose not to place on its schedule of restricted substances in 2016. “It seems like something that eventually should be.”
Forbidding kratom sales — at least until its effects on public health are studied more thoroughly — seems the smartest route, Weiner said.
“I would put a hold on it until we know more,” he said. “It seems like the possible risks outweigh the possible benefits.”