Is the Neighborhood ‘Going to Pot’? And What Is Kratom, Anyway?

Introducing kratom.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A new word has entered the lexicon of the neighborhood: kratom (pronounced cray-tum.) It is showing up increasingly on storefront signs and windows, often beside the letters CBD. In the case of CBD Kratom – a shop that will open on West 70th Street and Broadway, where Paris Baguette used to be – the sign also says, “Cannabis Dispensary Coming Soon.”

Is the neighborhood “going to pot,” as one commenter said, when we first announced this opening? What is CBD Kratom planning to dispense, and how soon? Recreational marijuana is legal in New York State now, but not likely to be available for sale to the public for at least a year, according to several sources. Is the store positioning itself for the future?

Actually, CBD Kratom is part of an already-thriving chain of 36 stores, spread out across five major U.S. cities, owned by a married couple named Dafna Revah, 28, and David Palatnik, 30. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, their company is called MNG (Mr. Nice Guy.) They started it in 2016.

WSR spoke with Dafna when she and David were in town this week to open their new Chelsea location. She expects the UWS shop to open “in two to three months.” It will offer CBD and Kratom products. Here’s what we learned about both.

Dafna and David in their Chelsea store, at 354 W. 14th Street.

There are over 600 products on the CBD side of the store. By now, it is widely known that CBD may come from the same plant as marijuana, but it is not marijuana. Proponents say it assuages a wide variety of physical ailments and needs — notably, pain, inflammation, and insomnia — but it does not alter consciousness. It is marijuana’s well-behaved cousin. Both may come from the cannabis plant, Dafna explains, but CBD does not contain what marijuana does: “Delta 9 THC,” the psychotropic and (until last month) illegal component of the plant.

“We are a cannabis dispensary, because we carry all cannabis products, except Delta 9 THC,” Dafna says. “We do carry Delta 8 THC, and it does have psychotropic effects similar to Delta 9,” she adds. “It’s very popular right now.”

Kratom is not derived from cannabis. It comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree (Mitragyna speciosa) that grows in Southeast Asia, and is related to the coffee plant. That may be why one of its alleged benefits is increased energy, Dafna says. “Kratom is a natural supplement. Right now, they just use the pure Kratom, which is a dried leaf. Depending on the fineness of the grind, it’s mainly used as a tea or with a powder consistency to put in smoothies and other foods. Some people prefer capsules, because it has a bitter taste.

“We fell into the CBD Kratom portion of our business,” she continues. David had previously owned a more traditional head shop. “We stayed in it because of what we’ve seen; we truly believe it. We hear endless stories; customers come back all the time, saying ‘this is the only thing I’ve found that has worked for me.’ Kratom is used by millions of people for pain management. That is the number one reason,” Dafna says. “It really just helps people manage their pain and live their lives. It’s truly something you have to almost see or hear to believe.”

David and Dafna unmasked.

Kratom is not without controversy. It is legal, but unregulated. Google it and you’ll find entries like “Ineffective and unsafe – Mayo Clinic”; “FDA Cracks Down on Kratom Products – WebMD”; and “The FDA’s kratom warning.” If you read the entries you’ll find claims that it is addictive (and counter claims that it can be used to cure opiate addiction.) You’ll also find a long list of potential adverse side effects.

“The bottom line,” according to the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is, “There haven’t been any clinical trials (studies in people) to evaluate the health effects of kratom….”

“I would say we fully disagree with their assertions,” Dafna responds. “And if anyone takes a deep dive into what they say, it’s really based on nothing, unfortunately.”

Dafna is glad to be opening on the Upper West Side. She went to Columbia University, and lived on its northern edge for awhile. She’s glad for another reason as well. “We already have a good customer base here from our online store,” she explains. “One of the main reasons we wanted to open on the Upper West Side is to serve our current customers better, and to gain new ones.”

Editor’s note: Do your own research. Talk to trusted others and your doctors before trying any new medicines, alternative or otherwise.

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 70 comments | permalink
    1. Jacob says:

      “Alternative Medicine…[h]as either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work.
      Do you know what they call ‘alternative medicine’ that’s been proved to work?
      Medicine.”
      -Tim Minchin, “Storm”

      • Katherine says:

        Millions of people use cannabis for pain relief and/or relaxation. For them it is effective, i.e. “it works.” There aren’t official studies as far as I know because weed is still federally illegal, so by that definition it is “alternative” medicine. (However CBD has been packaged as a prescription-only medicine called Sativex for spasticity in multiple sclerosis. So Big Pharma is not far behind here.)

    2. ben says:

      Most publications you can find on Pubmed.gov regarding kratom use warn of potential toxicity and adverse effects, as well as lack of clear benefits or sufficient research. The degree of conflict of interests is off the charts when you have a kratom dealer singing praise of her kratom product and being skeptical about FDA’s position. In other news, I’ve never met a snake oil salesperson not liking their snake oil.

    3. EGF says:

      It is fascinating that people will willingly take all kinds of chemical based drugs that are manufactured by Big Pharma and drink alcohol which is literally poison yet they get all bent out of shape with a drug that grows on this planet naturally.

      • Danielle Remp says:

        One “Drug that grow on this planet naturally” is hemlock, Socrates’ poison.

        Wikipedia lists hundred of plants that are poisonous.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_poisonous_plants

      • Peter says:

        Ever heard of castor beans? Beautiful plant, growing naturally on this planet, with super-cool-looking beans.

        Guess what’s (fairly) easily made from it.

      • D-Rex says:

        Not all things of this earth are “good” for you.
        Some harmful items that are “natural”:

        Asbestos
        Uranium
        Arsenic
        Cobras
        Covid-19
        Donald Trump

      • Jacob says:

        Indeed! It’s truly fascinating how people will so willingly take medicine that’s passed rigorous clinical trials to ensure that it’s safe and effective, but they won’t eat random mushrooms they find in the woods. I wonder what the difference could be?

        (as a non-sarcastic aside, everything that’s made of atoms has a chemical composition. The only way to have medicine that’s not chemical in nature would be to use energy: light, sound, magnetic fields, or the like. Any pill or powder or leaf is made of chemicals no matter how “natural” the seller markets it as. So when you say “chemical based drugs” people should know that’s meaningless scaremongering)

    4. good humor says:

      i’m hoping to live a life where escape isn’t needed and where i’m not in physical pain.

      • nemo paradise says:

        And I am hoping that I will be reincarnated as a billionaire rock star with wings.

        • Sarah says:

          And while we’re wishing, I’d like a pony.

          • Ed says:

            Sarah, I’m 68 and have been asking for a pony all my life and still am ponyless. I even have a nice terrace on the 11th floor that would make a nice home for Colt. (yes I already have the name) But getting back to the legal pot in NYS. I personally have nothing against it, but there was something so much more romantic being in college and having to find the dorm room with the “spider drawing” to score from Sunshine. Now to go in to the dispensary, buy a pack of Sky High smokes, and then to Pinkberry for munchies? It feels so pasteurized. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Pretzels anyone?

          • EdNY says:

            Manya had a pony. May she R.I.P.

        • wombatNYC says:

          + to come back as David Lee Roth

    5. Mark Moore says:

      Are they planning to apply for a THC sellers license when they’re available in NY state, and do they have one at any of their other locations?

    6. Otis says:

      Do these two people have any medical training? Have they conducted or contracted for any medical studies?

      The fact that kratom is legal and allegedly “used by millions of people for pain management” does not convince me of this product’s benefits or safety.

      Furthermore, I find it outrageous that this store is practically across the street from PS 199.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        Otis, you need to comprehend what you’re (hopefully) reading. CBD is legal. CBD is not harmful. Get over your 1960’s mentality.

    7. Jen says:

      If an MD thinks you need it, maybe you do. If you yourself looking for ailments as an excuse to use it, you shouldn’t. If Bobby Bobby who got med education in the mall, you shouldn’t. Same with Goop and similar wizards.

      But it definitely shouldn’t be sold in stores As if it is not a big deal, like regular stores.

    8. Mark Horn says:

      Kratom aside, Cannabis dispensary licenses should go to people from the communities disproportionately affected by police targeting for possession of pot. This is an outside company that’s already positioning itself nationwide. Support local business and support dispensaries that will be opened by POC.

      • Peter says:

        Why? Give me one good reason why the mere fact that someone got arrested for possession of pot (at the time when police were even bothering with this) is qualified, trustworthy, “license-able”, etc. to run such a store. One way or the other, they violated an existing law. Now we “should” be rewarding them with licenses?

        They can go ahead and apply like all others. “Should” is not enough of a reason.

        • Will says:

          Because we all know white folks were not arrested or treated the same for violating the same rules. To be fair it was decriminalized for decades in NY and the federal ruling on stop and frisk related to marijuana harassment would tell you all you need to know about discrimination and marginalization. This is why communities disproportionally affected need to be vindicated for being targeted and singled out when everyone else did the same and never were approached by the NYPD.

          • anthony says:

            That is not a good reason. It’s no less than racial payback, racial debt, literally.

            Black people were targeted for smoking weed more than Whites, all true. And all that should stop and be fixed (expungements etc)

            So now we are going to punish white people who had nothing to do with any of the prior wrong other than shared skin color by denying them licenses in favor of POCs who individually haven’t been imprisoned for weed. So it’s individual POCs benefiting for wrongs done to others with who they share skin color, at the expense of White people who I am sure have been asking for pot to be legalized forever and were never for locking anyone up for weed, and only because they are White. if you want to only patronize establishments by POCs the is of course a choice but the government should not be involved in that.

            • Will says:

              If POC folks gaining in society upsets you, then there is nothing I could say that would make you feel any empathy for folks experiencing racism and anti blackness in this city. No one talked about taking things away from white people, but if black people gaining immediately makes you feel like white folks are having things taken away from them, then that’s a bigger conversation we need to have.

            • Ish Kabibble says:

              Very well said, Will.

    9. Terry Boskin says:

      Happy to see we are getting access to things that can make life more bearable here. Allowing women and men to sell their conjugal services openly and legally at the storefront level will be the next step forward. After that, every precinct can be redeveloped as a de-carceration hostel.

    10. Nick v says:

      Its actually not pronounced “cray tum” thats how its commonly MISpronouncted by us white people. Its pronounced “kra-tom”/ “kruh-tom”

      Kinda hard to take anything else you say seriously after that…

    11. Jason says:

      Kicking Kratom was horrible! These people are capitalizing on a legal drug. The people that fight for Kratom are simply addicts that haven’t hit bottom yet. If it is so safe stop cold turkey and tell me you are not in hell on earth.

      • Alex says:

        I’ve enjoyed kratom nearly 20 years. I stopped cold turkey many times. Absolutely no problem at all.the effects do diminish over time and increasing the the dosage doesnt help, which is why I back off every now and then…to reset tolerance.

    12. Tony P says:

      Do your own research, I remember when the”authorities” commented on marijuana, with the same rhetoric.
      I’ve used Kratom for a few years to relieve pain, in my experience it’s not physically addictive, is available in mildly calming and mildly energizing strains and seems to have a positive effect on attitude.

    13. Balebusta says:

      As a healthcare provider, the only thing these products will do is separate you from your money, possibly elicit a placebo effect, and potentially cause toxicity. I wish success to all small business owners & I am sure they will do well, even though their product claims are baseless.

    14. MW says:

      Kratom is a godsend for pain, and I expect I’d be hooked on opioids without it. No doubt, really. Yes, I wish there were more (any?) studies on kratom, but until then, I can only count it a great blessing.

    15. Julia says:

      I hate how much I smell marijuana on the streets all the time now.

      • mh says:

        Me too. I HATE it. It is so intrusive, unlike cigarette smoke, which, while noxious, fades the moment you pass by a smoker.
        What can be done about this?

        • Ish Kabibble says:

          Cigarette smoke is not only more pungent (IMO), it is also a lot more harmful. People die from 2nd hand smoke of cigarettes.

          • EdNY says:

            Second-hand cigarette smoke has been experienced by millions of pedestrians, apartment dwellers and office occupants for decades and has produced extensive data. Compare that to the number of people frequently exposed to smoke from joints. I’m not aware of comparable studies. But I suppose we’ll find out eventually.

            • Ish Kabibble says:

              True, but ‘joints’ make up a pretty small percentage of pot consumption. Most folks use vapes which produce no smoke, and the vapors rarely have a scent. So while there are likely no studies, I find it hard to believe that it will come close to what 2nd hand smoke has been shown to do.

      • mkmuws says:

        Well you may smell it less. We’re supposed to get smoking lounges. Legalizing ADULT-USE CANNABIS will fix some of the existing ills, apply transparency and regulation etc. It will also provide exponentially better access to vapes and edibles that will reduce that smoke.

      • Mark Moore says:

        I honestly don’t smell any more now than before it was legalized.

    16. Bryce says:

      Kratom is great. I haven’t touched heroin or any other opiate in years thanks to that plant. It’s good to see it’s helping others too.

    17. robert says:

      There have been “medical studies” done that show it works to alivate some pain. They are always done against placebos They have a success rate lees than simple Advil. And yes I have done medical research fir years in hospitals/labs

    18. mkmuws says:

      Cannabis, not marijuana. Adult-use, not recreational.

    19. Kelly says:

      I don’t care who smokes what. My main concern is this; Are those smoking weed going to be able to sit on their couches smoking away in the apartment next to me? It’s bad enough I have to have cigarette odor seeping through the walls. Now this? Again, I don’t care what you do in your own apartment that doesn’t infringe on my lifestyle in my apartment.

      • EdNY says:

        It will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out. Co-op boards (and condo boards) will be able to deal with it fairly easily; in rental apartments, I imagine the “warranty of habitability” regulations will come into play. Stay tuned.

    20. “Proponents say it assuages a wide variety of physical ailments and needs — notably… insomnia.”

      “…and is related to the coffee plant. That may be why one of its alleged benefits is increased energy, Dafna says.”

      So, what: it’s used for insomnia by increasing energy, as in drink coffee and then go to sleep? hmm…

      Does it work for migraines, joint pains and dandruff?

      Let me guess: you’ll say yes to all three.

    21. Mark says:

      This is a well-written, well-balanced article – at least from the point of view of someone who knew nothing about kratom. I’m impressed with the steady improvement of the journalism practiced by the WSR.

    22. Stef Lev says:

      Around the corner from an elementary school and on a block where students from the 2 nearby high schools congregate.

      • lynn says:

        Keep in mind that this area is already a problem BECAUSE of the high school students who congregate there. The police are out there for a reason, and it’s not because they love the food at McDonalds.

      • Jonathan says:

        Yet you say nothing of the fast food establishments within the same proximity. Maybe some more research on actual health threats and longitudinal studies of dangerous lifelong habits for kids will help clear your confusion and embarrassing misplaced priorities.

    23. Milt Mankoff says:

      I’m sure they are nice folks, but I prefer the NIH, which has no horse in the race. I always find it amusing when people diss Consumer Reports when their product gets no love, but undoubtedly rely on it for everything else.

      I’ll stick with Delta 9 THC, wherever available, now or in the future.

    24. Jo Baldwin says:

      If a buck is to be made, there’s a way of making it. Long live capitalism – not!

    25. Robert says:

      I have used Kratom almost daily for close to 4 years. I use the powdered leaf. It helps my pain more than the drugs I got from My doctor, has no bad effects and for Me is not physically (or psychologically) addictive.
      Abuse by overdose just causes vomiting.

      • Phoebe says:

        I don’t care if you use Kratom or Advil, but if you use it daily, you can’t say you aren’t physically or psychologically addicted. I’d like to know if it has any claim to health benefits, or if it is like Ambien, for example, where you keep having to raise the dose. That leads to toxicity, and whether or not you vomit some of it out, it’s still not a good thing. But I’m sure there are worse things one can take for pain. Moving the body usually helps more than does masking pain with substances. When it hurts, stop; then re-start. Rest, and start again later. That’s what I call natural cure for what ails many.
        Btw, I NEVER smell pot out there, and I like the smell. I don’t smoke bc it makes me tired and hungry, but I’d rather that smell than the ubiquitous odor of cigarettes, that causes pain in my temples, nausea, and sort of a “scent memory” after walking past too many of them. I can smell a cigarette from down the street before I spot the smoker. It’s even worse than the other smells—y’know—what we love to gripe about, and is also, perfectly natural.
        Great discussion.

    26. Paul says:

      Both my son and daughter tried it at different times as a marijuana substitute. There is no mention in this article of its psychotropic properties which can become addictive It is difficult to quit cold turkey (my son had a particularly difficult and uncomfortable withdrawal).

    27. Chocolate teacup says:

      No different than Starbucks honey, just a different ingredient that makes you feel good! And what a coffee war we had in NYC!!! Remember how many small roasters and coffee houses there were!!??…and now it’s mostly Joe’s and Starbucks on the UWS….because every restaurant has an espresso maker or high quality beans. And now it’s time for the CBD companies to come in and let us chose what works best for us! I’ve had no pain, great sleep and feel good since taking CBD oil daily before bed for years. Doesn’t give me stomach aches like NASAID drugs, or walking in my sleep like Ambien, or effect my weight like some antidepressants! So cheers to CBD and may we all be healthier and happier. WELCOME KRATOM

    28. Brady Hull says:

      Never understood the hate for kratom. Many of the detractors have no problem quaffing hundreds of Tylenol each year–a drug available everywhere and known to be the direct cause of thousands of deaths each year. Kratom on the other hand does not. Not a single fatality is attributable to kratom alone.

    29. hokage says:

      you old mature people need to get with the times. some of your favorite movie stars, athletes, musicians smoke pot. people still have that outdated mindset. still on vhs and beta. still on cassette tapes lol. i fear those people with marriage and social problems who drink alcohol and release all that suppressed anger and rage. driving and crashing. beating their wife… alcohol is the devil.

      • lynn says:

        What an oddly warped view you have of ‘old people.’ I suggest that you try to better educate yourself because you’re not getting any younger. 😉

        My friend, who is now technically a senior, was misdiagnosed with a neurological disease in his 30’s and given pharmaceuticals to treat it for 20+ years. That left him completely debilitated. For approx the past 10 years he’s been using ‘alternative’ treatments that have greatly eased his suffering and given him a relatively normal life.

      • Mark Moore says:

        Ha, the “old people” have been smoking weed for decades. You’ve heard of the 60s? That was more than 50 years ago already.

    30. Jonathan says:

      Myself and many inter generational members of my family have been thankful for the benefits Kratom provides for nearly 10 years now. My mother who nearly died from metastatic cancer two years ago attributes her survival in part to the pain and anxiety relief Kratom provides. Unlike some of the propaganda that’s been generated by two pharmaceutical companies — which after investigation by actual journalists were revealed to be in the process of synthesizing and patenting Mitragyna — not a single person in my family, including myself, had any trouble “quitting” or not taking Kratom for several months to years at a time. Do your own research, just approach it with a good faith mindset and be open to opinions that don’t conform to your own and you’ll find that Kratom is overwhelmingly a positive natural substance to have in our arsenal, and has likely saved countless lives.

    31. Mark twain says:

      Pretty unbelievable the ignorance in the comments. I’d rather someone take kratom that has been used in Indonesia for 1000 years than prescription drugs Big pharma has everyone brainwashed into thinking they’re the “only safe option”

    32. At minimum CBD has to be regulated. There are only anecdotal accounts of its efficacy as a pain reliever. Most food sold today consumed has to meet minimum government standards. Organic products are not the exception. Labeling providing nutritional value, ingredients and warnings are necessary. Questions about quality and potency need to be addressed. Will minors be allowed to purchase without parental consent? We’ve seen with monitoring what has happened with the J&J vaccine, where a very tiny number had adverse effects. You can also overdose on aspirin or some vitamins which are usually safe and regulated. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about CBD and legalized Marijuana.