The key point: The backlash started when the DEA announced plans to ban the supplement.
In late 2016, the D.E.A. announced a plan to temporarily place kratom on the list of Schedule 1 drugs, including heroin, LSD, marijuana, and MDMA—those defined as unsafe and with a high potential of abuse. Previously, kratom had largely been off the regulatory radar, sold as a dietary supplement and often shipped in packages labeled “not for human consumption.” As a Schedule 1 drug, kratom would be outlawed. And because the DEA was invoking its emergency scheduling powers, the public had no right to comment.
Yet tens of thousands of people responded, asking the DEA to reconsider via a whitehouse.gov petition. A bipartisan group of 51 members of the US House of Representatives signed a letter opposing the decision, saying it would hurt federal research into opioid addiction and treatment. (The DEA refused to share the data on which it would base the emergency plan.) The DEA backed down, withdrawing its plan for emergency scheduling. Instead, it would open up public comments—which soon, again, numbered in the tens of thousands of people testifying how kratom had helped them—and would defer a judgment pending research by the FDA.
At the federal level, kratom remains legal, though it’s unclear for how long. But it’s already been outlawed in six states, and bans have been proposed in New York and Florida. Rep.
Kristin Jacobs, who filed the Florida legislation, calls kratom “a scourge on society,” pushed by “addicts with glassy eyes and shaky hands,” and suggests there’s a powerful lobby determined to keep it legal.
“They have a story,” Jacobs told Florida Politics. “Just like Hitler believed if you tell a lie over and over again, it becomes the truth.”
Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association (AKA), a nonprofit group that advocates for consumers, called the remarks “outrageous,” and pointed out that she, like many of the association’s members, uses kratom as an alternative to opioids. She herself is a former opioid addict.).
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