The DEA’s ban on kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia and currently used by millions in the U.S., could go into effect as early as today, September 30. The DEA must place a final order in the federal register for the ban to take effect.
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.
Following a massive surge of public support, 51 U.S. Representatives sent a letter to the DEA this week urging them to hold off on the ban.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has also just sent a letter to the DEA, co-signed by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), stating the need for ”adequate time for experts to weigh in via public comment.”
In addition, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the most senior Republican senator and chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has sent a “dear colleague letter” to the DEA asking to postpone its plan to place kratom in Schedule I.
“Congress needs to use its oversight authority over the DEA to keep the pressure on – momentum is still building and we can’t let up now,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
DPA held a national press tele-conference on Tuesday with leading advocates and researchers – audio is available here. Since the ban was announced, DPA donors and activists have sent over 60,000 messages to Congress.
“If the DEA gets its way, more people who struggle with addiction will be criminalized,” said Jag Davies, director of communications strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Given the widespread moral, political and scientific consensus that drug use and addiction are best treated as health issues rather than as criminal issues, there’s no good reason to criminalize people simply for using kratom – especially considering how much we already know about prohibition’s disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized communities.”
This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.