Drug Policy

DEA Withdrawing Awful Attempt to Completely Ban Kratom

After backlash, they've extended the comment period and called for FDA input.


David Becker / ZUMA Press / Splash News/Newscom

Sometimes outrage is the right response. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has heard loud and clear that it has very little support for its declaration that it was going to ban the pain-killing plant and possible opioid addiction treatment known as kratom.

The DEA announced at the end of August it was going to place kratom in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act, meaning the government has determined that the drug had absolutely no medical purpose. This was an extreme overreaction, according to many researchers and even lawmakers, and they responded accordingly.

There were hints that the DEA might delay its own decision and today Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post got official confirmation. The DEA is withdrawing its notice that it will be placing kratom on the ban list.

But it's far from over, and one would have to be naïve to think that the feds would simply allow a psychoactive substance to be sold without any sort of oversight. The DEA is opening up a new comment period until December 1 and is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the use of the plant and suggest a "scheduling recommendation."

While this is all a massive improvement over what had initially be planned, kratom researchers and experts are nevertheless concerned over what is likely to happen next, Ingraham notes:

"It's certainly a positive development," said Andrew Kruegel of Columbia University in an email. Kruegel is one of the researchers working to develop next-generation painkillers based on compounds contained in kratom.

Kruegel says that the FDA's evaluation of the drug will carry a lot of weight in the DEA's decision. But the kind of rigorous, controlled trials that the FDA typically refers to in situations like this simply don't exist for kratom.

"Unfortunately, in the United States I don't think we have a good regulatory framework for handling this situation or taking perhaps more reasonable middle paths" between banning the drug outright or keeping it unregulated, Kruegel says.

Still, he says, "the FDA is a scientific agency rather than a law enforcement agency, so I am encouraged that they will now be having more serious input on this important policy decision."

Reason's Jacob Sullum has been weighing in on the oppressive "anything not permitted is strictly forbidden" approach the DEA has taken with drug controls. He wrote about the arbitrary nature of its knee-jerk effort to ban kratom just last week.

Read the DEA's withdrawal note here.

NEXT: Someone Is Arrested Every 25 Seconds for Drug Possession in the U.S.

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  1. This means reason wants heroin to be not just freely available, but mandatory.

  2. I cant give ya a bam, boys, but i can give ya a GREEN EGGS AND HAAAAAAAM.

    1. RIP Phil Collins.

  3. Backing off isn’t enough.

    Every DEA employee – from head to janitor – needs to recognize that once I rise to power, I will be pitiless; they will end their days in the boats. They should quit their jobs, while they still can.

    1. Scaphism is getting old. In honor of our great national bird, I’d go with the blood eagle.

      1. That’s way too quick! It’s even quicker than being cast into a wood-chipper, headfirst!

      2. And give them 250 mg of Tylenol first.

    2. I like the cut of your jibe. Can I be your czar of something?

  4. Since I’m not one of the cool kids who gets invited to the rainbow parties, and I’m a bit too old to get invited to the parties where half the party just decides to all go to the bathroom at once to smell the mirror, I have to ask. How is Kratom?

    1. It’s somewhere between acetaminophen and krokodil.

      1. It’s somewhere between acetaminophen and krokodil.

        So, somewhere between pretty easy to overdose and your high ends when the police shoot you?

        1. when the police shoot you

          But only because you’re in possession of a schedule one drug and it’s for your own good.

      2. Krokodil? Like Schnappie?!

    2. Less zombifying than bath salts, but not quite as convenient as jenkem.

    3. I like it a lot as a mild mood enhancer and pain reliever.

    4. “How is Kratom?”

      I take it daily to manage general anxiety. Very mild. No come-up or down. It’s not like that. It simply produces a subtle, if not unnoticeable, sense of well (or better) being.

      That the DEA even considered Schedule 1’ing it still blows my mind.

    5. Decidedly meh. Kind of smelly, not very potent. If it helps people get off heroin, awesome. There’s practically no other reason to touch the stuff.

      1. There’s practically no other reason to touch the stuff.

        Quite a few people disagree with you there.

        1. It’s a very mild opioid effect that requires a rather large amount to achieve. Heaping spoonfuls of the common powder form approximate maybe 5mg of hydrocodone. I’m not supporting the DEA, the opposite actually. I’m annoyed that such a mild substance safely enjoyed by many even hit their radar. The DEA is just a spiteful agency. They don’t give a fuck about public health.

          1. Ding ding ding. It’s always and forever about mission creep.

          2. I guess I never experienced that effect because more than a little makes me nauseous. And I like the mild stimulant / euphoria like effect of a small amount.

          3. I’m not supporting the DEA

            I would never suggest such a thing. Just saying that a lot of people find reasons to touch the stuff other than treating opioid withdrawals.

            I may have a low tolerance. A couple of capsules of quality powdered Kratom does what I want it to do. Relaxing yet slightly stimulating without clouding the mind.

            1. Well, I think the point is, if people have access to cannabis and alcohol, they probably wouldn’t pay too much attention to kratom. The reason being it’s so mild, while you can get truly zoned out on the former 2 substances, especially in combo.

              1. I find all three have their place.

    6. For me, like a little more mellow caffeine. That’s about it, very, very mild effect.

  5. Doesn’t schedule 1 also mean a high potential for abuse? Does anyone actually abuse that stuff?

    1. Do they use it without getting permission from a physician first? Is it used recreationally, or to relieve the indescribable pains of life? Has the FDA received tens to hundreds of millions of dollars from a pharmaceutical company to earn its stamp of approval? If so, any use is abuse.

      1. It’s well known that the only safe recreational drug is alcohol.

        1. And tobacco, while not safe, is permitted, but only as combusted leaves and filler, not vaping juice.

          We really do have the dumbest regulators.

          1. And tobacco, while not safe, is permitted, but only as combusted leaves and filler, not vaping juice.

            You’re freely allowed to absorb lethal doses through your skin, what more do you want? Maybe some horrible tasting (I hear) gum to go with it?

        2. Don’t forget caffeine.

            1. Not if it’s low-brow and in one container, anyway.

              I’m kind of surprised no one has tried harder to regulate caffeine. Though any significant moves on that and you’d probably have a revolution on your hands.

              1. That revolution would run out of steam at around 2 in the afternoon, though.

              2. A century ago caffeine did come under some pressure from what is today FDA.

        3. Because alcohol isn’t regulated up the ass or anything.

    2. My cursory research, being that I am a simple #Dudeweed420blazeit pleb, has shown me that Kratom is no different that khat or coca.

      That is to say, the Brown people have been using this without oversight for millennia, and it was only White Man who done came down and made it potent and easily abused.

    3. The DEA tried to finesse that by claiming that it was an “emergency temporary designation” where they needed to shut that thing down until they could figure out what was going on. Very Trump.

      Of course Schedule I makes it nigh impossible to do research that would provide any evidence whatsoever, so it was ridiculous bullshit. (Again, very Trump.)

    4. “Doesn’t schedule 1 also mean a high potential for abuse? Does anyone actually abuse that stuff?”

      It means that instead of going to prison for 1 year for personal use, like schedule 2 and 3, you go for 10 years. That’s right, 10 fucking years in prison for eating a leafy substance that gives an effect as mild as coffee. Someone please remind me how our government is still legitimate?

  6. “the FDA is a scientific agency rather than a law enforcement agency…”

    I’m not convinced.

    1. Instead of making up laws to justify whatever they planned to do to you anyway, they’ll be using science.

    2. Well they are failing big time on the science part. I got approved just yesterday for hyperbaric oxygen therapy to repair the damage to my bones and intestinal tract caused by radiation therapy. Since then I’ve been reading non-stop about HBOT and have found that the therapy is being used very successfully in Europe for a number of conditions that the FDA will not approve its use for here in the US. Doctors can prescribe the treatment “off label” for strokes and traumatic brain injury (two highly success areas in Europe) but because it is “off label” insurance will not cover the cost. I doubt that the average stroke victim can shell out $2k+ per treatment for the necessary 40 treatments. The FDA is preventing a recognized treatment that produces very few side effects from being fully utilized. I’m just “lucky” that I have one of the ten approved conditions. As a vaper (vapist?) the FDA was already on my shit list and now I’m completely convinced that they are evil.

    3. I was going to say, “Thanks for starting my day with a laugh” at that statement.

  7. -1 Hank Schrader

  8. This is window dressing. After a period of pretending to take various evidence and opinions into account they’ll schedule it anyway. It might not be schedule 1 but having kratom might just get you the same penalty a bottle of unprescribed Valium will get you. This might end up a win depending on the outcome but I’m pessimistic.

    1. Exactly this. Now that protests have put it on the national map the DEA will come gunning for it with a vengeance, through the FDA if necessary.

    2. After a period of pretending to take various evidence and opinions into account they’ll schedule it anyway.

      Not to mention that the ‘experts’ vociferously defending the use at this point will distill and quantize efficacious doses and then do a 180 in order to get protectionism and, simultaneously, protect consumers. You’ll still be able to get the leaves of irregular and unknown quality but cooking the leaves into product will be a felony.

    3. For a number of reasons, this is why I stick to legal drugs: Caffeine, cigars and alcohol.

    1. “Scalia? Are you there Scalia? It’s me, Ruthie. Listen big guy, the parties at Kennedy’s house just aren’t the same without you here, baby. We have nothing to scoff and mock, and secretly, we have all begun to question whether or not we are in the right, without your scathing “half-baked” accusations. I need you now more than ever Antonin, I need you to tell my why I am such a dirty girl. Oh Tony, I would hide my head in a bag if you would just come up from the Stygian Abyss where you reside and explore my slippery slope with me one more time. Hot, steamy, and intellectual, like that time when we were in the Orient.”

      1. Beautiful.

      2. Argle Bargle! – safe word used by SCOTUS

  9. I just recently learned that prior to the ratification of the 21st Amendment, a good number of states had already legalized alcohol statewide. Perhaps we’ll have to rack up state referenda on a drug-by-drug basis, and overcome the DEA one drug at a time, until we reach a point where the DEA’s positions are so fundamentally out-of-touch with state positions that folks will start to seriously question the justification for national prohibitions as a solution to anything.

    Maybe that black pussy grabber Jefferson had a point after all.

    1. And Maryland never illegalized it in the first place.

      1. And now everything is illegal in MD, go figure.

    2. The only way that you’ll be able to get any drug legalized at the state level will be if it has a very large user base, like cannabis. Kratom will probably never achieve that.

      1. Which is why we need to keep things like that from being prohibited in the first place. Kratom has at least enough users to get enough legislators to pay attention to make the DEA change its course a bit.

  10. This was an extreme overreaction, according to many researchers and even lawmakers, and they responded accordingly.

    By doubling down, right? RIGHT?!

  11. If it can be enjoyed then it must be prohibited. Only natural highs are allowed. Like the high you get when you smash down a door, toss in a couple flashbangs, hold your rifle to a child’s head, and laugh as their mother cries in terror. Those kinds of highs are to be celebrated. But using a plant? No fucking way. That is not natural. That deserves being locked in a cage.

    1. and sarc leaps from the top ropes with an atomic knee!

    2. Like the high you get when you smash down a door, toss in a couple flashbangs, hold your rifle to a child’s head, and laugh as their mother cries in terror.

      It doesn’t start out this way, of course. They get you when you’re young. People in the community when you’re little, you’re taught to look up to them. You’d never know they were seizing people’s assets to buy more toys or using their badges to force themselves on women and grow their personal child porn collections. Then, when you’re older, your friends talk you into it. “C’mon, just sign up for the academy…” They say. “You’ll make a little money…” They say. It all seems so pedestrian, so suburban. But then you discover you kinda like siccing the DCFS on Mothers who get snotty with you and then, after you shoot your first dog, you’re pretty sure things will never be the same. And you swear you’ll never go back.

    3. I call it “Pureaucracy” – rule by a bureaucracy whose baseline assumption is Puritanical, in that enjoyment of a thing is not sufficient reason for a thing to be permitted. And anything not clearly, explicitly permitted is forbidden.

      1. The Puritans from the 17th century ain’t go nuthin on progs and SoCons.

        1. Both Progs and SoCons are the direct spiritual descendants of the Puritans, but a certain amount of evolution has taken place.

        2. They did go to church for like 5 hours a day. So they had that.

    4. Good thing the alcohol those doorsmashers drink afterwards doesn’t come from plants.

      1. Yeast is an approved fungus. Shrooms? Not so much.

  12. the FDA is a scientific agency rather than a law enforcement agency

    Wrong. The FDA is a political agency, first and foremost.

    1. It’s a law enforcement agency when it can get away with it, and a scientific agency on paper only.

      1. I’ve had people who deal with the FDA a lot come right out and say that the FDA is nothing but a shill for big pharm. And these are mostly pro-big government progs. Of course, the only reason they admit to that is that the pharm companies are EVUL CORPORASHUNZ! Otherwise, they could care less.

  13. But it’s far from over

    Have they Schedule 1’ed rope and lampposts yet? That’s when you’ll know the end is in sight.

  14. The FDA is not going to save Kratom. The FDA is a puppet for the pharm and food industries. Good grief, every single person who works with the FDA knows this. Only ignorant stooges don’t know it.

    Why instead don’t they read the fucking Constitution or at least call in some real experts on these matters. And when I say experts, I mean someone who is not colluding with the FDA or DEA to ban shit.

    Kratom is a harmless herb, nothing more.

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