With the demise of the SITSA Act, 2018, Kratom has weathered one of it’s largest and most misinformed threats to date. After passing the House of Representatives, this misguided legislation was never taken up by the Senate. With the seating of a new Congress to start 2019, SITSA goes back to square one, but it was far closer to passage than any Kratom advocate would like to see. The danger presented by SITSA–and Kratom’s near miss– illustrate just how vigilant Kratom proponents must remain to protect safer access.
The SITSA Act, 2018
The Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act, more commonly referred to as the SITSA Act, was a piece of legislation introduced during the 115th Congress. Authored in 2017, it eventually made it to the floor of the house in June of 2018 where it passed before dying in the near-deadlock the Senate had become leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. Ostensibly introduced as a means to stem the tide of synthetic opiates and THC analogues from overseas, it drew immediate condemnation from human rights groups and Kratom organizations.
What The SITSA ACT, 2018, Actually Did
Rather than a considered approach to a legitimate public health crisis, SITSA was overly reactionary, possibly unconstitutional, vaguely written, and largely failed to address the opioid crisis.
- SITSA granted authority to the Attorney General to schedule certain drugs as controlled substances as he saw fit. That is an enormous amount of power to set law being bestowed on an individual in the executive branch of government. The Constitution provides for Congress to make laws that the executive branch then enacts. Under this sweeping legislation, the Attorney General would create the laws that he would then enforce.
- Under the SITSA Act, 2018, heavy criminal penalties were imposed on those found in violation of the law. These mandatory penalties were arbitrary and developed with no input from the US Sentencing Commission. Harsh penalties have also proven ineffective in stemming the illegal drug trade, as addiction is a mental health ailment that requires treatment, not incarceration.
- It established a new scheduling level for these controlled substances of “Class A”. Inclusion on the Class A list was at the sole discretion of the Attorney General for any chemical that had a similar structure to and similar actual or predicted effect as another controlled substance. That is a very broad definition that offers a subjective rather than objective set of criteria. Further, it could lead to a continuous chain of finding more and more compounds that are “similar enough”.
Why The SITSA Act, 2018, Was A Danger To Kratom
Current regulations are designed to hamper manufacture’s ability to educate about Kratom, and SITSA seemed purpose-built to take advantage of that.
- With the vague standard of “similar”, Kratom’s chemical structure, while not the same as other opiates, could have been deemed close enough. If not to a currently scheduled opioid, it would not take long for detractors, such as then-FDA-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, head of a department that works closely with the Attorney General on drug abuse agendas, to “chain” enough compounds together until a connection was made.
- Due to FDA restrictions, manufacturers are hampered when discussing the potential benefits of Kratom. Ironically, detractors are as fast to label Kratom as having an effect similar to opioids when trying to ban its importation and sale as they are to censure manufacturers who make the same claim. The mere prediction that it may have a similar action on certain receptor sites in the body would be enough to ally it’s listing under Schedule A.
- Kratom isn’t well known outside of its loyal and growing community of advocates. Too often, that leaves misinformation unchallenged. This lack of a large and vocal following leaves Kratom lightly protected and an easy target for those whose profits would be cut into by a natural answer to the epidemic of opioid addiction.
Would The SITSA Act, 2018, Have Successfully Banned Kratom?
Luckily, we didn’t have to find out. SITSA was flawed, and Kratom was not a perfect fit for its criteria. Despite its occasional demonization as a synthetic opioid, nothing could be farther from the truth. As a tropical evergreen tree, Kratom is as natural as they come provided it is processed without contamination or synthetic materials are added in. Also, owing once again to the vague standards SITSA attempted to create, it may not have been similar enough to banned compounds. In the end, it is likely that the courts would have had to decide, but with the same misinformation that is available to everyone else, victory there would not be a sure thing.
No Time For Complacency
While the SITSA Act, 2018, didn’t survive the Senate, don’t expect the danger to safe, legal access to Kratom to die with it. The same legislators, backed by the same big pharmaceutical lobbyists, with the support of the same anti-Kratom regulators could reintroduce the bill now. That doesn’t mean, however, that nothing can be done to create a safer environment for Kratom and Kratom enthusiasts.
Start by educating yourself about Kratom. Despite the often hostile regulatory environment, scientists and researchers are exploring its potential to positively affect people in need. Keep an eye on the latest findings, and work to truly understand not just the science behind Kratom, but the social issues related to its legality. Once you’ve learned the truth for yourself, you can begin to help educate others.
Advocacy starts with you, and advocacy is what’s needed to defeat dangerous measures like the SITSA Act, 2018. National organizations like the American Kratom Association and reputable dealers like Kratom Spot can help keep you informed about research, upcoming legislative action, and ways you can show that Kratom should be legal and available to responsible adults. If Kratom access matters to you, join us in the fight today.