The Colfax branch of Myxed Up Creations was raided shortly after Denver Environmental Health banned the sale of kratom for human consumption, only to be allowed to transfer its supply of the popular herbal pain reliever to locations outside the city limits rather than being forced to destroy it after DEH's own board called its process flawed. But while Myxed Up founder Phil Guerin is pleased by this turn of events, his battles with Denver aren't over, thanks to an upcoming court case involving CBD.
"They came in to restrict our CBD sales in a similar type of action that they did with kratom," Guerin maintains. "Instead of coming in and educating us, which is what the board said they should have done with kratom, they seized a bunch of products and said we can't move or distribute any of them. Because of the total lack of education, they made it virtually impossible for us to be in compliance."
Guerin started Myxed Up Creations in his parents' basement before graduating to a small store at a different address on Colfax 25 years ago — and he stocked kratom long before it was cool.
"We've been selling it in one form or another for almost twenty years," he points out. "But it wasn't very popular. People didn't talk about it, and there really wasn't a market for it. But in the last five years, public awareness about it has really expanded."
Kratom advocates tout the substance as an opioid substitute for those with chronic pain, as well as an aid to kicking injection-drug addiction. But Guerin says it can be also be utilized "in a myriad of different ways. People make soaps from it, use it as a topical and do things with it like they would with lavender or any other herb. It's not really aromatic, but it's fairly versatile."
As for consumption, Guerin says he tried some of it, as he does with all of the products available at Myxed Up Creations, and "I didn't feel anything at all — and I'm pretty sensitive to stuff like that. If I drink a Starbucks, I'm up for two days."
A short time later, Guerin ran into an addiction specialist, and he asked about kratom. "I said, 'I don't understand what the big deal is.' And he said that for people with opiates in their system, their receptors are more sensitive. Their whole body is about ingesting opiates, and because their receptors crave them, they get sick without them. So kratom can really help them — but if you don't use opiates, it won't have the same effect."
For this reason, Guerin doesn't understand why Denver Environmental Health regards kratom as so potentially dangerous. In his view, "people always want something to blame. It's a great scapegoat — but from a civil liberties point of view, I feel it should be available to people in whatever form they like."
At the same time, he stresses that he's happy to comply with Denver Environmental Health's policies even if he doesn't understand their rationale. It's the department's approach that he found objectionable.
"They did this entire thing on the Monday before Thanksgiving," he points out. "They wanted to destroy the product on site, but then said they'd come back two days later — the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — to destroy it. The fact that our lawyer [Michael Gross] was available and able to file the appropriate documents to stay their action was almost a miracle."
Moreover, Guerin emphasizes that the kratom inside capsules that inspectors wanted to ruin by dousing it with bleach remains legal to sell in Denver even today if it sports a label saying it's not for human consumption. "Let's all be honest with ourselves: If this is strictly a problem with the packaging, which it seems to be, they could have given us notice so we could have gotten into compliance. That would have been simple. But they were more interested in a gotcha moment. They came in and seized our product like they were the DEA, without any warrant, without a hearing. They thought they could violate the Constitution of the United States of America because of their broad, administrative powers."
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Myxed Up's victory at the hearing earlier this month means the stores won't be out the $4,050 worth of kratom it had on hand in Denver; the stock has now been transferred to sister shops in Aurora, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, where it's under no restrictions. But a significant amount of CBD products have lingered in limbo since last August, when inspectors took possession of them after determining that their sale violated city rules — which was news to Guerin.
"CBDs are basically hemp products," he allows. "I've been selling hemp products on Colfax for 25 years, and this is the first time I've heard of this. We were completely unaware of any city regulation governing them — so that's where the confusion is."
After being informed about the rules, Guerin acknowledges that "they make it pretty clear how to get into compliance — but we only found out about it after they caused a lot of heartbreak and cost us a lot of time and immediate resources. I mean, I didn't even know we were governed under the Department of Health. I thought they concentrated on restaurants. We didn't have any idea why they were here for enforcement, because to my knowledge, we don't sell food products. But they look at kratom like food."
The CBD court date is set for early April, and Guerin hopes it goes as well as the kratom hearing did. But even if Myxed Up is cleared of wrongdoing and/or allowed to transfer the products outside of Denver, the price of the two controversies has still been high. As he puts it, "If their primary objective is education, it's definitely the tough-love kind."