In a shocking turn of events, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has withdrawn it’s intent to schedule mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, the active components of the herbal supplement Kratom, after numerous consumer advocacy groups, scientific, and medical professional spoke out against the seemingly arbitrary attempt to ban a medically useful, natural substance.
Chuck Rosenberg, an administator for the DEA, filed what is known as an “intent to withdraw” notice–a rare occurrence–which essentially means they no longer which to list Kratom as a schedule 1 substance.
Kratom, if you’re not familiar, is an Asian herb which has analgesic (pain-killing), anxiety-reducing, and relaxation properties. It is used widely as an alternative medicine for various medical conditions, and it seems this widespread legitimate use is what made the DEA take a step back and re-evaluate whether banning Kratom really makes sense.
In 2014, the customs (at the request of the FDA) began seizing shipments of Kratom being imported into the U.S. after a dramatic increase in the number of Kratom-related posion-control placed the supplement squarely on the government’s radar. This caused quite an uproar among Kratom consumers, vendors, and alternative medicine practitioners who all claimed Kratom’s legitimate medical uses outweighed any abuse potential.
This sudden seizure of Kratom shipments stirred up rumors that the DEA was the in process of banning the supplement altogether. Sure enough, in August 2016, the DEA announced a temporary placement of the active components of Kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, into Schedule 1 status.
Why it was going to be classified as a schedule 1 substance was beyond the understanding of many medical professionals and industry experts. The Schedule 1 class of substances is typically reserved for substances which have no known medical use and carry an abnormally high abuse potential. Such drugs include Cocaine, Heroin (and other Opiates), and Methamphetamine. So, of course the DEAs original announcement to ban the active components of Kratom turned heads.
This sudden and seemingly arbitrary scheduling of a substances that millions of people rely on for medicinal use created serious backlask from the general public, medical professionals, and subsquently, various state Senators who wrote letters urging the DEA to reconsider this rash decision. Ultimately, this is what caused the DEA to reconsider.
Melvin Patterson, a DEA spokesperson, described the public response from the Kratom community as “eye opening” and made it clear that “the DEA does hear them”. DEA spokesperson Russ Baer made a similar statement and went on to say “We don’t want the public to believe we are simply a group of government bureaucrats who don’t care about their safety and health.”
This may be a small victory, but there’s still a much larger issue here…The DEA can ban any substance it wants, at any time, with little reasoning required.
Under Title 21 of the United States Code (USC) Controlled Substance Act, the DEA has been given emergency scheduling authority, meaning the agency can instantly schedule (ban) any substance in the interest of public safety.
Proponents of these laws may claim that the DEA needs this authority to act quickly in order to keep the general public safe, but the general public needs to understand the implications of allowing their government to continue to ban whatever they want, whenever they want.
Land of the free? There’s nothing about restricting what substances a person puts in their own body in the constitution, so it’s safe to say our Founding Fathers didn’t think the government should be telling people what chemicals they can and can’t consume at their own free will.
That said, it is quite unprecedented for the DEA to target a particular substance (or in this case, a plant containing many substances) in the interest of “public safety” and then actaully listen to the people they claim to be “protecting” when they tell them it’s not a good idea. In fact, an emergency scheduling such as this has never been un-scheduled before.
In the past, substances have been officially scheduled and unscheduled years later after a long reconsideration period, but this sudden flip-flopping is not at all consistent with the DEA’s traditional way of doing things.
This may very well mark a turning point in the war on chemicals that’s been going on in the United States for some time now. It’s absurd to try and illegalize natural substances that have been helping human beings cope with their issues for thousands of years just because some people abuse them.