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The Story of the Kratom Ban

The Kratom Ban: gavel with powdered kratom

The will of the people seldom aligns with the will of the government. We see this with the kratom ban, an ongoing war against kratom products started by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2016 and continued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. Even now, amid a global health crisis and growing civil unrest, the FDA has reminded members of Congress that they still intend to ban the plant and its constituents.

However, kratom is legal at the federal level. It seems that the FDA is attempting to swindle their anti-kratom agenda into law through unjust means. Plus, a ban on kratom products only stands to do two things, both detrimental:

  1. Slow down or outright stop all current medicinal research into kratom alkaloids.
  2. Make it impossible for kratom users to receive their daily dose of kratom, many of whom use kratom solely for medicinal purposes.

Luckily, there are organizations doing something about this governmental overstep. The American Kratom Association (AKA) aims to pass the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA) in all 50 U.S. states, a bill dedicated to creating a safe kratom marketplace. But before we can cover the AKA’s campaign to keep kratom legal, let’s take a look at how the kratom ban got started.

What is the Kratom Ban?

It all started with the Drug Enforcement Administration. In August of 2016, the DEA announced their intentions to temporarily schedule kratom’s active alkaloids: mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. They planned to place these alkaloids in Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), making kratom products as illegal as heroin.

The DEA backtracked their temporary scheduling due to an outpouring of support from kratom users and members of the general public members at large. According to these kratom advocates, the plant wasn’t just an herbal supplement. Instead, it was saving people, improving their health and well-being.

The FDA Steps In

The government’s reprieve lasted only a year, however. In October of 2017, the Food and Drug Administration took a firm hold of the anti-kratom baton. They submitted a scheduling recommendation of their own, hoping to revive the DEA’s goal of listing kratom as a Schedule I narcotic.

Then FDA-commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the Food and Drug Administration had a “public health obligation” to fight back against unregulated products like kratom. Despite what you may believe about the FDA, however, there is no premarket approval process for food products. On the contrary, the FDA can only react – not act – when legitimate safety concerns arise. So how did the FDA bypass these regulatory measures?

They did what governments do: swindle. The FDA possesses the authority to pre-approve food additives, not food. Such regulations can apply to specific ingredients within food products. So what claims did the Food and Drug Administration make? They said that, by putting kratom powder into a capsule, it becomes a “food additive.” In this scenario, the capsule is the food, and the kratom is, therefore an additive.

This is absurd.

The FDA tried this once before in 1993. In that case, the courts issued a scathing response, stating the FDA was attempting to create some “Alice-in-Wonderland” plot that gave them broader authority than they’re allowed.

In Comes Health & Human Services (HHS)

Do you know what apparently kicked off the FDA’s attempted kratom ban? The Department of  Health and Human Services (HHS) wrote a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration, arguing that kratom products should be classified as a Schedule I narcotic. Under the CSA, Schedule I narcotics have:

  • A high potential for abuse.
  • Unsafe parameters, even when used under medical supervision.
  • No accepted medical use.

The HHS claimed that kratom fit this definition, ignoring studies and the testimonials of kratom users. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration reached out to the FDA on how to proceed, launching the Food and Drug Administration’s anti-kratom campaign. It’s interesting to point out that the HHS’s 2017 letter was also supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

According to the American Kratom Association, the group championing the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, the NIDA now supports their pro-kratom legislation. This is after representatives from the National Institute of Drug Abuse sat down with members of the AKA, something the Food and Drug Administration has refused to do for 740 days and counting, according to a tracker on the AKA’s website.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s important to remember that the FDA’s proposed kratom ban isn’t just bad for kratom users; it’s bad for everyone. By ignoring research and refusing to fund studies to further corroborate research into the efficacy of kratom products, the FDA is signaling to the public that they don’t care about potentially new and useful medicinal treatment options.

Furthermore, by waging an unsuccessful war against kratom, government agencies like the FDA and DEA are only making the kratom marketplace more dangerous. Earlier this year, the FDA released a report that large amounts of heavy metals – a manufacturing contaminant – were found in a variety of kratom products. These used this as an example of why this “unregulated market” should be banned. However, the kratom market is unregulated because these government agencies refuse to act.

This is why the Kratom Consumer Protection Act is so important: it begins to regulate the kratom market, putting manufacturing standards in place that make kratom products safer for consumers. We need to help stop the FDA’s war on kratom. Instead, we need to pressure our politicians to look out for our best interests and the best interests of medicinal research at large. By instead attempting to make kratom Schedule I, these governmental bodies are stifling research and taking a valuable herbal supplement away from consumers.

Get Involved & Ensure Kratom’s Future

There are various ways to get involved and help stop the kratom ban. Especially now, grassroots organizations like the American Kratom Association need funding to continue their necessary regulatory movements. If able, you should consider donating to the AKA. Even small amounts can make a huge difference. But what if you don’t have the funds right now?

Call your politicians! The Kratom Consumer Protection Act has only been officially passed in four states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Utah. While this is a significant first step, we as kratom users and advocates can do better. Tell your city, county, and state representatives that you support the KCPA. Tell them you support the future research of kratom and kratom products.

If you want to get involved but don’t know how, you can always reach out to Kratom Spot for advice and resources. We love to hear from members of the Kratom Spot family, especially when it comes to maintaining an industry we care so much about.