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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Learn About Kratom’s Science and History, Why the DEA’s Ban Will Contribute to the Opioid Crisis, How We Might Stop the DEA, and What It All Means for the Future of Drug Policy

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced that it intends to temporarily place kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia, on the list of Schedule I drugs – effective this Friday, September 30.

Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association, speaks at a Washington rally she helped organize in support of keeping kratom legally available to the U.S. public, Sept. 13, 2016. [V. Gunawan / VOA]
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Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association, speaks at a Washington rally she helped organize in support of keeping kratom legally available to the U.S. public, Sept. 13, 2016.
[V. Gunawan / VOA]

Without a serious scientific investigation the DEA intends to subject anyone caught with any quantity of kratom to long prison sentences, while effectively halting scientific investigation into kratom’s medicinal benefits, and making it impossible to enact sensible legal regulations.

Many people struggling with opioid addiction have turned to kratom as a safer alternative, but now all promising scientific studies on its role in opioid treatment could be immediately shut down.

If the DEA gets its way, more people who struggle with addiction could be criminalized, which is exactly the opposite direction drug policy should be going — especially given the scientific and political consensus that drug use and addiction are most effectively treated as health issues. (For more information on kratom studies, visit the Kratom Literacy Project.)

Many in the recovery community see the kratom ban as a way to force recovering opioid addicts to use Suboxone, Big Pharma’s quite profitable — but often ineffective — answer to addiction recovery. “This will screw up the recovery community in the same way the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 screwed up the early AA community,” drug policy reformer David Bryant Green told us. “This is a move to force Subox on people in Opioid recovery — pure evil.”

“The Kratom industry is a small niche herbal market, with most users discovering it via word-of-mouth online,” reports Rebecca Chance at The Flounce. Its crushed leaves have been sold mostly through herbal stores and in some head shops as “incense.” It is often taken in small amounts (about 5 grams per dose) in powdered form or in capsules.

Kratom is used for pain relief, as a mood stabilizer, to treat depression, for substance abuse withdrawal and opiate withdrawal symptoms, and historically has been used in Eastern medicine to treat diarrhea, cough, and fatigue.

Congressmen Pocan (D-Wis.) and Salmon (R-Ariz.) oppose the kratom ban [Good Looking Loser / YouTube]
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Congressmen Pocan (D-Wis.) and Salmon (R-Ariz.) oppose the kratom ban
[Good Looking Loser / YouTube]

A bipartisan effort is currently underway in the U.S. House of Representatives encouraging more research and asking the DEA to postpone this decision, reports Steven Nelson at US News and World Report. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Matt Salmon (R-Alaska) on Friday recruited 45 co-signers in the House for two letters, which were sent Monday afternoon to acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the DEA, and to Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“This significant regulatory action was done without any opportunity for public comment from researchers, consumers and other stakeholders,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Rosenberg (who, by the way, has admitted “we have have gotten it wrong”). “This hasty decision could have serious effects on consumer access and choice of an internationally recognized herbal supplement,” the Congress members noted

The Congressional letter asks OMB Director Shaun Donovan to overrule the DEA [Associated Press]
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The Congressional letter asks OMB Director Shaun Donovan to overrule the DEA
[Associated Press]

The Congressional letter to Donovan asks him to overrule the DEA, which is invoking a rarely used emergency power with only 30 days notice, pointing out that the action “will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions.”Emergency scheduling decision from the DEA are unusual, and only are effective for two or up to a maximum of three years. Additional evidence is required to support its permanent scheduling, and there’s reportedly cause for kratom advocates to hold out hope.At least one compound placed on an emergency basis in Schedule I, the MDMA alternative trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP), was announced for emergency inclusion in Schedule I in 2002 but currently is unscheduled.

The Drug Policy Alliance is fighting to put the brakes on kratom prohibition and will hold a national teleconference this Tuesday, September 27 at 2 pm ET /11 am PT  (1-800-311-9402,  Password: Kratom)

Speakers include:

·         Susan Ash, director, American Kratom Association

·         Jag Davies, director of Communications Strategy, Drug Policy Alliance (moderator)

·         Dr. Andrew Kruegel, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Chemistry, Columbia University

·         Congressman Mark Pocan or aide (tentative)

·         Grant Smith, deputy director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance

·         Andrew Turner, Retired U.S. Navy Officer

 

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