RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new bill filed in the General Assembly would create new regulations for Kratom, a controversial narcotic, keeping it legal in the state but imposing restrictions on its sale.

Kratom, marketed as an “herbal supplement,” is derived from the leaves of a tree native to Indonesia, and has become popular in recent years as a treatment for pain and an alternative to opioids. But the plant has also invited controversy and warnings from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it could pose dangers of its own.

The drug is currently unregulated in Virginia, meaning it can be sold over the counter at gas stations, smoke shops, and dedicated kratom shops with names such as “CRAZY VAPOR KRATOM CBD THC VAPE STORE” — a recently opened shop in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom.

Kratom legality tracker map promoted by the American Kratom Association. (Source)

Under HB 1521, patroned by Delegate Hyland “Buddy” Fowler (R – Hanover), Kratom products would be subject to new health and safety guidelines, as well as restrictions on how and to whom they can be sold. But the legislation would also keep the product legal in Virginia.

According to the American Kratom Association, a group that advocates for legalizing and regulating the herb, Kratom is currently banned in six states, and four states, including Georgia, have adopted consumer safety regulations similar to those proposed by Delegate Fowler.

Under his bill, Kratom producers would be banned from selling products that contain dangerous solvents, synthetic alkaloids meant to boost potency and highly-concentrated amounts of the drug’s active ingredient.

Producers would also be required to clearly label their products with recommended serving sizes and directions for safe use. All sales to anyone under the age of 21 would also be illegal.

While advocates say the substance is a safer alternative to opioids for pain relief and can even help with withdrawal symptoms, the FDA has declared Kratom to be dangerous, warning that it can be addictive and claiming it has been linked to overdose deaths.