CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia will soon tighten its laws around the sale of kratom and hemp-derived cannabinoid products.

What is kratom?

Kratom is a plant native to Southeast Asia that can have both stimulant and sedative effects when consumed, depending on the dosage, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA says it is possible for people to become addicted to kratom and there have been several cases of “psychosis,” including symptoms like hallucinations, delusion, and confusion, reported as a result of consuming the plant.

The DEA says common side effects of kratom include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, tachycardia, vomiting, drowsiness, and loss of appetite, but some users have experienced anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, hepatotoxicity, seizure, and hallucinations.

Kratom is not federally regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, but there are some U.S. states that have banned or regulated the sale of the plant.

What is a hemp-derived cannabinoid product?

“Hemp-derived cannabinoid products” can include products that contain cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, or products that contain lower concentrations of the high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC. Those THC products are often referred to as delta 8 or delta 9. Both CBD and THC naturally occur in hemp.

CBD and products like delta 8 and delta 9 were legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp and derivatives of cannabis with extremely low concentrations of delta-9 THC from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As a result, it is legal in West Virginia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about delta-8, pointing out several concerns, including the fact that the products are not evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use, which means there can be variations in product formulations and labeling, as well as cases of adverse events, with some requiring medical intervention or hospital admission.

What changes does the new law make?

Senate Bill 220, which was approved by Gov. Jim Justice on March 23, requires permits to manufacture, process, distribute, offer to sell, and sell regulated hemp and kratom products.

It also grants the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Alcohol Beverage Control Commissioner legislative and emergency rule-making authority to declare non-permitted products illegal, limit lawful sales to people 21 and older, require age verification for internet sales, and establish an 11% tax on the products.

It also calls for guidelines to be developed requiring that products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids be clearly labeled, advising customers to keep the item out of reach of children, and not to ingest the product while pregnant.

(Photo: New York State Attorney General)

The requirements come at a time when concerns are growing nationally over cases where children ingest edible cannabis products in packages that look like popular snacks.

SB 220 also calls for developing prohibitions on child-targeted packaging and shapes and forms of products.

Earlier this month, three students at Mountaineer Middle School in Clarksburg were caught using a THC vape pen in school. Two of them were taken to the hospital by their parent and one of them was taken by ambulance.

The law will go into effect 90 days from the bill’s passage, according to the West Virginia Legislature’s website, which will be June 9, 2023.