Drug Policy

The DEA's Crazy Kratom Ban Dresses Pharmacological Phobia in Scientific Garb

As far as the DEA is concerned, the leaf has no legitimate uses.


Kraken Kratom

If you are curious about kratom, the pain-relieving leaf from Southeast Asia that is both a stimulant and a sedative, now would be the time to try it. As I explain in my latest Forbes column, a national ban on kratom takes effect at the end of September, thanks to a DEA analysis that arrives at a predetermined conclusion by assuming the drug has no benefits:

At the end of this month, kratom will be illegal throughout the United States thanks to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which this week announced that a ban is necessary "to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety." The way the DEA reached that conclusion provides an illuminating window on the prohibitionist mindset, which dresses pharmacological phobias in the garb of science.

Kratom is a pain-relieving leaf that acts as a stimulant or a sedative, depending on the dose. But the most important thing to know about kratom, if you want to understand the DEA's reasoning, is that it's not from here. Kratom comes from a tree, Mitragyna speciosa, that is native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. It has gained a following in the United States only recently, hawked by online merchants and head shops as an herbal medicine, "dietary supplement," or legal high. As far as the DEA is concerned, the fact that people in other countries have used kratom for centuries to ease pain, boost work performance, and wean themselves from opiate addiction counts for nothing. All the DEA needs to know is that our shores have been invaded by a foreign drug that is increasingly popular among Americans as a home remedy and recreational intoxicant. From the DEA's perspective, that is intolerable, regardless of the drug's hazards or benefits.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. I bought some of this stuff for sleep not too long ago. As it turns out it didn’t do anything for me but a lot of people use kratom for chronic pain because it used to be easy to get and had few side effects and they were able to function and to work. I guess they’ll have to be transitioned to Vicodin and the dole now. What an easily avoidable shame.

    1. I haven’t tried the stuff. No impact at all for you?

      1. I tried it for a pulled back muscle.
        Pro: good pain relief
        Con: crippling nausea and vomiting

      2. Made me a little groggy and fuzzy but no more than a couple of Benadryl. It might have worked if I’d taken a larger dose but it’s kind of expensive and damn near unpalatable. Your experience may very well vary, of course. If you want to give it try, how’s the time.

        1. now’s the time.

  2. Go find out what Baby is doing, and tell him he mustn’t . . .

  3. The number of deaths these bureaucratic asshats have on their ‘consciences’ has to be amazingly large.

    Question though – is it too tin foily to assume a this is coming from pharmaceutical lobbyists or is it just the precautionary principle/zero tolerance mindset at work?

    1. Hey, hey, hey, I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies never get involved in the decisions that wipe out their competitors-they’re all about beneficence to mankind. Nah, just kidding, it’s not tin foily at all.

    2. Well it’s pretty obvious that DEA and FDA have dropped any pretense that the health of the masses is on their agenda. But they’re very effective in excluding competitors from the marketplace. Coincidence?

    3. sloth-
      I automatically assume a combination of the two is at work. “And”, not “or”.

  4. In 2010, the Thai Office of the Narcotics Control Board proposed decriminalizing kratom and affirmed its use as an integral part of Thai culture. The ONCB concluded that decades of non-problematic use, and an absence of health and social harm, make prohibiting the leaf unnecessary and counterproductive. According to the ONCB’s report, kratom was in fact banned for economic reasons, not for health or social concerns. The Transnational Institute stated:

    In Thailand, kratom was first scheduled for control in 1943 under the Kratom Act. At the time, the government was levying taxes from users and shops involved in the opium trade. Because of the increasing opium costs, many users were switching to kratom to manage their withdrawal symptoms. However, the launch of the Greater East Asia War in 1942 and declining revenues from the opium trade pushed the Thai government into action to curb and suppress competition in the opium market by making kratom illegal.

    As of October, 2013, the justice ministry of Thailand suggested removal of kratom from the narcotic drug list relating to Category 5 of the Narcotic Drug Law of 1979, though still recommended regulating kratom in other ways due to its effects on the nervous system. This recommendation will be made to the Ministry of Public Health, which can move forward with the removal from the list or not

    1. In 2010, the Thai Office of the Narcotics Control Board proposed decriminalizing kratom and affirmed its use as an integral part of Thai culture. The ONCB concluded that decades of non-problematic use, and an absence of health and social harm, make prohibiting the leaf unnecessary and counterproductive.

      And here I thought that the parts in Ramez Naam’s trilogy that took place in Thailand were unrealistic.

  5. Just another plant you can’t grow on your private property…nothing to see here

      1. You can take my peppers from my spicey dead hands!

      2. “private” property…..good one…oh you were serious ?

  6. The DEA is a cesspool of brains bleached from reason. The DEA hardline against plants has absolutely fucking nothing to do with safety and even far less with goddamn compassion… if so, these sordid sick motherfuckers wouldn’t be busting doors down and dragging bruised bodies into concrete boxes where the sun can only be seen through steel bars and the slow destruction of self.

    Illegal activities, products, compounds, and thoughts (coming to your village soon) fertilize the fangs of despotism and make no mistake about it- the beast underneath us has every fucking tool in the book to shut down the liberty society no matter what fucking ‘wing’ is driving it.

  7. Why does the DEA have the power to unilaterally ban anything?

    1. Because idiots vote for politicians who are “doing something” about drugs.

    2. Because not enough public officials who are happy to wipe their asses on the constitution have been fed into woodchippers.

      1. +3 separation of powers

        1. 3 separations of power – head goes in that pile, torso goes in that pile, limbs in that pile over there.

  8. I for one am thankful the government is keeping everyone safe from unfamiliar things with odd names. For example, I am so relieved we got that “vaping” thing banned. I heard it was worse than “flakka”.

    1. Meh. They can’t even get rid of jenkem.

      1. I always picture Rich as an Argentine. (I amuse myself)

    1. I don’t think it causes your limbs to become gangrenous and fall off. For those of you who don’t know what that is, do NOT google it.

    2. No, Crocadil is actually bad for you and barely exists in the US.

  9. I hate these fucking Forbes links. They all demand that I turn off my ad blocker.


    1. I agree. Every time I click a Forbes link I am met with violence and hate for the selective censorship I freely exercise.

      So fuck them in the corn hole, I just won’t read their articles anymore. Either way, less add impressions and overall page traffic for those pig fuckers.

    2. just open them twice, the second time it’ll work (with ublock for me anyway)

  10. The precautionary principle is the same reason cops use for shooting people who are not clearly not a threat. If they can’t see your hands, or if you have something in your hands that they can’t clearly identify as not a weapon, they are perfectly justified in blasting away. And anybody who criticizes the shoot on the grounds that cops should only be allowed to open fire on someone who is clearly presenting an immediate mortal threat is just a cop-hater or an idiot who’s never had to make a split-second life-or-death decision on the battlefield. The government has no proof that this stuff isn’t going to kill you – and perhaps your family and friends and neighbors and all of humanity – and therefore they’re perfectly justified in banning it. If you’re going to criticize them on the grounds that they should only be able to ban stuff that clearly poses an immediate threat, you’re either in favor of exterminating the human race or you have no idea what it’s like to face the prospect of banning something knowing that every ban may be your last.

  11. As far as the DEA is concerned, the fact that people in other countries have used kratom for centuries to ease pain, boost work performance, and wean themselves from opiate addiction counts for nothing.

    Oh, come on, Jacob. The DEA just doesn’t want us to end up like Papua New Guinea. You know, crawling with cannibals.

    1. I hear these drug addicts eat people faces, which is cannibalism, therefore they should be banned.

  12. They like to throw around that term “public health”. A public water pump that is spreading cholera fits the definition. But when it also encompasses an individual consuming a plant that affects only them, then the term has no real meaning, it’s just propaganda.

  13. God fucking damn it. I use kratom somewhat regularly for anxiety and pain relief.

    I guess the DEA thinks opiates and benzodiazapenes are better.

    1. Not really. DEA prohibitionists believe that any medication that has an intoxicating effect is extremely problematic. In their view, they allow peasants to ingest these substances because the appropriate legal entity has granted said peasant a temporary permission slip.

      1. It’s a moral issue. Here’s an example. Remember when those fat substitutes came out (Olestra ?). One argument against them was that if they make an ice cream which you can eat all you want and not get fat, then that becomes a problem. Because people need to pay for their gluttony.

        1. Fortunately the phenomenon of anal leakage restored the moral balance of the universe. I was always very amused to see food packaging with the words “anal leakage” printed on it.

          1. Which it would have done without the DEA/FDA/ABCDEFG.

            “Hmm…eat all the chips I want? That sounds…wait, ‘anal leakage’? Yeah, no.”

    2. The DEA is saving you from your abuse of kratom .

  14. The thing that allows these three letter agencies to be truly evil is that they are both the arbiters and enforcers of whatever they determine to be within their sphere of influence. That combination can never be good for anyone except the agency itself.

  15. Once again the federal government and the DEA have found and decided that there is another thing that should be banned, not because it is dangerous or deadly, but because it has no viable use or public benefit. Of course, this is part of the same drive that has been going on since Richard Nixon was president. Unfortunately government leaders aren’t anymore enlightened than they were 40+ years ago. At the same time they have tried to make the treatment of pain and suffering a major issue by making it harder to get pain medication to relieve pain than it is to get heroin off the street, which is made from opium producing poppies that the US military protected in Afghanistan. Now with the banning of kratrom it may push a few more people toward heroin, and/or other legal drug purchases, but that is no big deal to the DEA, because that is what keeps the DEA in business. The sensibility of these asshats is amazingly short sighted, they believe that Americans should be forced to use dangerous pharmaceuticals instead of natural remedies that have no dangerous side affects, because that is what the pharmaceutical lobby is paying our political leaders in Washington to do.

    1. I quite like it. Maybe I’m unusual. A smaller dose seems to work for me than for most people (or maybe I’m looking for a less profound effect) and I never have any nausea or other unpleasant side effects that some people complain of.

  16. Holy shit! Someone, somewhere may use a leaf to have a little fun or be a little more comfortable!



  17. The past two years have been the most enjoyable and fulfilling years of my life! my only regret is that my children missed out, all those years, on the normal mom I am today! Shame on the DEA! What has happened to my great country that I once was so proud to live in? What about my rights and my freedom? Why isn’t it my choice to do and treat my body as I wish? Basically, what it boils down to is, the greedy, conniving politicians, pharmaceutical companies and government officials, actually own my, this, body that I’ve been living in! I’m saddened and filled with grief, knowing this is the country I’m leaving to my children. I’m a disabled Mother, Grandmother, Daughter, Sister, Aunt and my name is Phyllis. Please help stop the ban on Kratom. For more information: Kratom

  18. Many people have already found the benefits and effectiveness of Kratom for themselves, but the medical world is still working on whether or not this is the right method for providing relief to patients everywhere, as there is still not a lot of research done on the product and not a lot that is known about it. This is something that is required in order for the product to be regulated and then dispensed to the general public looking to use it. Visit http://goldenmonkkratom.ca/

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