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Radnor Hit With Suit for Blocking CBD-Kratom

CBD Kratom may have the last laugh.

After weeks of residents’ outrage, Radnor officials passed an ordinance that prevents the controversial store from opening at the site of a former Starbucks on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne. The company immediately filed a lawsuit against the Main Line township.

“Since the township ordinance was unanimously approved by the board, CBD Kratom filed a lawsuit to enjoin its application,” said Bill White, township manager. “The township intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit in that the ordinance is solely designed to protect children from exposure to unregulated substances in close proximity to schools, daycare facilities, and playgrounds. The township looks forward to defending against the claim in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.”

For their part, CBD Kratom officials said they signed a 10-year agreement to rent at the Radnor location last August.

Spencer Owens, government affairs specialist for CBD Kratom, explained Radnor was chosen simply because of the demand for its product. CBD Kratom, which has over 50 venues nationwide and several within the Philadelphia area, determined many of its customers were traveling long distances to their stores and that a Radnor location would negate the need for that. That is where things began to grow complicated.

However, township officials said CBD Kratom had not obtained the proper permits to do business there. But Owens claims that the inability to get the proper permits was due in large part to township officials and their lack of responsiveness on the matter. CBD Kratom filed its lawsuit against both the township and the township’s director of community development accusing them of spot-zoning, a type of legislation targeted at one specific business.

The suit aims to allow Kratom to open for business and to sell kratom/delta-8. The  THC measure was passed April 4. It prevents the sale and distribution of any kratom or delta-8 THC product from within 1000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and daycares. That makes the Lancaster Avenue CBD Kratom location unusable because it is near Radnor Middle School and St. Katharine of Siena School.

Fear of their children being exposed to the drug motivated many parents to pack township meetings in opposition to the kratom store.

Delta-8-THC is a less common, less potent relative of Delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. It is currently under preliminary research. Kratom, derived from an evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, currently stands in a unique spot in the world of psychoactive substances.

Like marijuana, it has been used for thousands of years and is said to offer a wide variety of benefits, from pain relief to energy gains. Unlike marijuana, however, it is underregulated. For a product to make it to shelves that, in many cases, provides no dosage information whatsoever, is quite unusual in the world of pharmaceuticals and supplements.

The lack of regulation surrounding it sabotages the effort to prove its benefits. People are often left with the impression that any substance so completely unregulated must thereby be dangerous. The truth is more complicated.

While deaths have been attributed to kratom, they have rarely occurred without additional factors or substances at play. There is understandable concern that kratom, which does interact with the brain’s opiate receptors, could serve as a gateway drug in the communities that it enters. The inverse, however, is also true. There is no shortage of kratom users who espouse its benefits, Many claim kratom saved them from crippling opiate addiction. Others go even further and credit kratom for saving their lives entirely.

While benign in comparison to more accepted drugs like tobacco and alcohol, its sheer lack of regulation is concerning to many. Based on imports and sales, there are between 10 and 15 million kratom users in the U.S. alone. For a drug to amass such a large base of users while so little is actually known about it is highly unusual. In December, the WHO said there simply was not evidence to recommend a critical review of the substance, and that it should be kept at a minimum level of regulatory surveillance.

An article from Scientific American explained how damaging the effect of FDA regulation could be. “In the context of an America with the highest number of overdose deaths ever—driven largely by street fentanyl—removing a safer substitute almost certainly will increase mortality.”

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mis-identified the Radnor Township Manager. It has been corrected. DVJournal regrets the error.

 

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Radnor Residents Weigh In on Kratom at Town Hall

Is Kratom a dangerous gateway drug that may lead to addiction? Or a helpful, natural substance that can aid those suffering from chronic pain?

Residents sounded off at a March 3 town hall sponsored by the nonpartisan Radnor Advancement Group. The group brought together experts to talk about the issue after a store selling kratom opened without township permission then quickly closed at the site of a former Starbucks on Lancaster Avenue.

State Rep. Tracy Pennycuick  (R-Harleysville) promised residents to promote legislation to regulate kratom.  Her Kratom Consumer Protection Act would ban anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing any products that contain kratom while leaving it available to adults in need.

The evening opened with an excerpt from a documentary produced by Main Line TV filmmakers Jill Frechie and John Ricciutti entitled “Kensington in Crisis.” The presentation suggested that by allowing kratom into the community, doors would open for heroin addiction to flourish.

“Kensington— is thirteen miles that way. That’s not our town… could never be our town…,” said  Father Joseph Smith of the neighboring Saint Mary’s Church. Smith described his own brother’s struggles with addiction. “There was a time where communities seemed to have values… There was a time when anything didn’t go— standards of decency were naturally adhered to… there better be consequences [for CBD Kratom].”

Other speakers included Dr. Wade Berrettini, a professor of psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania’s Perlman School of Medicine, specializing in medical treatment of addictions; Dr. Asare Christian, MD, a graduate of  Harvard Medical School, who specializes in chronic pain management and medical cannabis titration; Samuel B. Dordick, a personal injury attorney who successfully tried a wrongful death case involving kratom;  Pennycuick, who is also a United States Army combat veteran as well as a legislator;  and Leslie Holt, founder, and CEO of A Child’s Light, a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation that provides funding for Chester County children in need of mental health treatment.

A couple of residents shouted that kratom should be banned entirely within the state for children and adults alike. “There are thousands of children and young adults who’ve already died!” exclaimed another concerned resident.

However, the mortality rates from kratom consumption remain low compared to several more widely accepted substances. According to the CDC, between 2016 and 2017, of the 91 deaths associated with kratom, all but seven victims had other drugs in their system.  In contrast, a 2019 CDC study found that, on average, 38 people died every single day died from prescription opioids. In the first half of 2021 alone, the CDC stated that 53,000 people had died from drug overdoses.

“I can see the danger in having this near our schools and churches, but the substance itself isn’t that dangerous… even caffeine kills more people. I just don’t think we should try to keep our kids sheltered from every single risk they come across in life. I know we all wanted that ice skating ban lifted,” said one resident when asked for comment.

Another resident said, “[In small doses kratom] is going to serve you like speed, like coke, like crack, and [in large doses] it’s going to serve as a depressant, like an opiate. So you have… a drug that’s not regulated, that’s serving two forms of a high. That is very dangerous to our community.” She added that while she couldn’t speak to any potential benefits the substance may offer to future addicts in recovery, its unregulated nature poses an apparent danger to the communities it enters.

Two other residents displayed two different THC and kratom products they’d easily purchased from nearby stores. One pointed out the colorful cereal-box mascots on the packaging, an apparent attempt to appeal to younger audiences. The second resident pointed out that nowhere on the kratom package he’d purchased was there an indication regarding dosage. “If you open this… what you see is a powder. How much of this powder are you supposed to use? Is it a pinch… is it a teaspoon full? No dosing recommendations,” he said.

Several people spoke out against banning kratom outright.

“Cigarettes aren’t banned… if you’re an adult you can go to war and shoot a gun…” said one person.

Others went further still.

“I’ve been consuming Kratom for seven years. I’m a United States Navy veteran, and I got addicted to opioids. Seven years ago, before I started kratom, I was one of the people on the streets in Kensington,” explained another person. While he did support a greater degree of regulation,  kratom had proven enormously helpful in his community. “Not all of us are addicts. There’s a lot of older people who have chronic pain… fibromyalgia, cancer— people are dying of cancer, and the pain meds aren’t helping them, but the kratom is… so for some of us, it’s very important and it is helping.”

Debates held over personal freedom and public safety are rarely simple. While the evening’s speakers were united in the call for kratom’s regulation, proponents of the substance argue that while the opioid crisis rages, every conceivable avenue for mitigation demands consideration.

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New CBD Kratom Store in Wayne Closed for Now

Radnor residents were surprised and outraged at the sudden opening of a store on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne that sells CBD and kratom, two substances that have surged in popularity in the last decade.

Many citizens came to the Board of Commissioners meeting Feb. 14 and said they strongly oppose the store, which is a few blocks from St. Katharine of Siena School and Radnor Middle School. However, township solicitor John Rice said the store opened without first obtaining the proper permits and has been shut down–for now.

One woman read a letter signed by 88 people, including business owners, in opposition to the store. The Mayo Clinic website warns Kratom is unsafe, she said.

“Having this store in our community normalizes drug use,” she said. Kids had immediately noticed the signs and taken selfies with the large marijuana leaf to post to their Instagram pages. She asked the BOC to make sure the store stays closed.

Clark Engle agreed and asked why the BOC had not proactively written ordinances to ban that sort of business. He noted officials had previously discussed a marijuana dispensary and a clean needle exchange, so they should have known the dangers of permitting undesirable business entities to take root in the township.

“I don’t want this in my backyard or anywhere on the face of the earth,” he said. “These utopian ideas don’t work. Just take a look at San Francisco.”

The business, St. Louis-based CBD Kratom, is expanding its reach with new locations in the Philadelphia area.

“In October 2021, we signed a lease for the former Starbucks facility after doing due diligence with Delaware County and Wayne Business Overlay District (WBOD),” said Dafna Revah, company vice president, told the Delaware Valley Journal. “Unfortunately, Radnor Township requirements were not identified by our team. I strive to live by our core values, which include responsibility, and which is why I take full ownership of this oversight. As always, we strive to be part of the communities we serve, which is one of the reasons we chose this facility in South Wayne. It was utilized as a previous training facility for Starbucks and the space provides us with a golden opportunity to have a permanent educational space for both us and our community.”

Kratom, a substance which many of its critics and even proponents liken to ‘legal heroin,’ has been met with controversy in many states. Some states, like Alaska, Arizona, and California offer only limited access to the compound.

Other states, like Alabama, Arkansas, and Indiana have gone as far as banning it entirely. In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, it remains a legal substance that can be easily found in most tobacco stores and head shops. Even gas stations are known to carry the substance. Kratom is a tree in the same family as coffee and can be found in both Southeast Asia and Africa. Its leaves exhibit psychoactive properties that can be compared to either stimulants or opioids depending on the dose consumed.

According to health.harvard.edu, “Kratom can be addictive due to its opiate-like qualities, and a small minority of users end up requiring addiction treatment. The CDC claims that between 2016 and 2017, there were 91 deaths due to kratom, but this claim should be greeted with skepticism, as all but seven of these casualties had other drugs in their system at the time of death, making it impossible to uniquely implicate kratom.”

Proponents of kratom argue the drug is a safer alternative to many opioid pharmaceuticals often used to treat heroin withdrawal symptoms. Skeptics are not convinced, pointing to dire consequences for some who ingest the substance.

“Caleb Sturgis, 25, of West Chester, died on June 27 after he drank tea made with kratom, according to the lawsuit against SoCal Herbal Remedies the Inquirer reported in 2019.” Sturgis then proceeded to crash his car on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Chester County, but the coroner ruled his death was from ‘acute mitragynine intoxication,’ the active ingredient in kratom.”

In an email to constituents, First Ward Commissioner Jack Larkin said, “It’s my understanding that CBD Kratom did not apply for permits from the township to begin operations. I’m told it has no certificate of occupancy, no plumbing and electrical permits, no business license, and maybe a half-dozen other defects in its permitting.”

While the store is purporting to be a dispensary, Larkin pointed out that, “CBD Kratom doesn’t seem to actually sell medical marijuana or hold a permit to do so, so it may be using the term in its colloquial sense, or in order to create confusion as to what exactly it sells.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana often used to treat epilepsy and a wide variety of other ailments.

”It’s closed. They were told they could not open without permits. They need permits,” said Rice.

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