Reason Roundup

The FDA Declares War on Yet Another Drug: Reason Roundup

Plus: Vermont could get a transgender governor, Tim Pawlenty won't be Minnesota governor, and the FBI warns of cash-spewing ATMs.


David Becker/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Kratom death reports are rubbish, say advocates. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims 44 deaths over a 9-year period have been associated with kratom, a Southeast Asian tree whose leaves have mild psychotropic effects when chewed or consumed as tea. A new white paper from molecular biologist Jane Babin suggests the FDA is full of crap.

Babin was hired by the American Kratom Association to look into the FDA's claims, which the agency has been using to support a crackdown on kratom and its classifying as a Schedule I drug. Babin's paper argues that the FDA "is pushing a false narrative in order to have kratom banned in the U.S.," as the Washington Examiner puts it.

The research suggests that while people may have taken kratom, other factors killed them. Certain death certificates, for instance, showed that people had been abusing other drugs at the same time or took powdered kratom that contained toxic chemicals. One of the deaths was attributed to falling through a window, another was a homicide in which someone was shot in the chest, and another involved a person suffering a heart problem while swimming. The group also found two instances where deaths were reported twice.

The FDA has cited these alleged "kratom deaths" in placing the drug on an import alert in 2012, in rescheduling recommendations to the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2016 and 2017, and in a 2017 public-health advisory. The warning said kratom was a "narcotics like opioid posing a deadly risk."

The agency "has relied on a strategy of manipulating, obscuring, and ignoring science in its inexplicable zeal to impede public access to the natural botanical kratom," states Babin's white paper.

The FDA has also misled the DEA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) with incomplete, inaccurate, extrapolated, and distorted information on adverse events and deaths allegedly associated with the use of kratom to encourage unwarranted legislative and regulatory restrictions on kratom at the federal, state, and local government levels. Any public policy decision-maker (or staff) or media reporter, seeking to validate the FDA claims in policy deliberations will encounter a massively manipulated and sloppily documented public record.

Dave Herman, chairman of the American Kratom Association, suggested that "the FDA's effort to frame kratom as a culprit in these otherwise unrelated deaths" was not just "sloppy and lacking in scientific integrity" but also "done deliberately."

Reason has covered the FDA's efforts against kratom for a few years now. "Is kratom the new marijuana?" asked Jacob Sullum in the January 2017 issue. See more here.


An Ohio judge keeps denying name changes for transgender teens. Formal name changes are required by law if kids at public schools want the teachers and administrators to stop using their old names. From The Washington Post:

One afternoon, slouched over a desk in a study hall classroom, Elliott, 15, was outed by an unwitting ninth-grade teacher who called him Heidi—his birth name or as the transgender community terms it, his "dead name"—while taking attendance. Ohio is one of several states that requires a court order granting a legal name change before a school can adjust its records.

So on June 18, Elliott and his parents, Kylen and Stephanie Leigh, went to court to make his name change official, appearing in front of Judge Joseph Kirby at the Warren County Probate courthouse in Lebanon, Ohio. They expected the hearing to be a formality, but Kirby's questions and commentary quickly turned to gendered toilets and Caitlyn Jenner, according to court transcripts.

Four days later, Kirby denied Elliott's name change. In the three-page decision, he referred to Elliott as "she" and "her" because using his preferred pronouns made it "difficult to read," Kirby wrote in a footnote. The judge issued denials for two transgender 14-year-olds the same afternoon.

Now Elliott, along with two other teens and their families, has filed a class action lawsuit against the judge.


The FBI has warned banks about impending ATM chaos. In a leaked, private memo sent last Friday, the FBI said that it "has obtained unspecified reporting indicating cyber criminals are planning to conduct a global Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cash-out scheme in the coming days, likely associated with an unknown card issuer breach and commonly referred to as an 'unlimited operation.'"

"Historic compromises have included small-to-medium size financial institutions, likely due to less robust implementation of cyber security controls, budgets, or third-party vendor vulnerabilities," the agency told banks. "The FBI expects the ubiquity of this activity to continue or possibly increase in the near future."


  • GarJo is back! Gary Johnson's "surprise re-entry into politics—as recently as five months ago he told Nick Gillespie 'I'm done with elected political office'—came about when the original Libertarian Party nominee for [New Mexico's] Senate…decided to step aside after seeing strong polling support for the two-time former governor," explains Matt Welch.
  • Christine Hallquist, a Vermont trans woman, was elected last night as the Democratic nominee for governor. "She is the first transgender candidate for governor among either major party," notes The New York Times. Tim Pawlenty, GOP gubernatorial Congressional candidate and ex-congressman Minnesota governor, lost his bid. See more takeaways here from the Tuesday primaries in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
  • Alex Jones has been suspended from Twitter.
  • The Food and Drug Administration moves to shutdown "opioid alternative" Poppy Seed Wash.
  • On incels, social science, evolution, and how we trick ourselves into believing we're better people than we are.
  • A federal judge will allow British actress Kadian Noble's sex-trafficking suit against Harvey Weinstein to go forward.
  • "The way we save the world is not by forming a Gen X Rapid Reaction Strikeforce with a mission to somehow make it 1985 again" author Matthew Hennessey tells National Review. But "I have some contrary opinions about culture's drift toward a Utopian, semi-socialist techno-paradise premised on the idea that privacy, free speech, edgy comedy, and newspapers have outlived their usefulness." Hennessey admits that in his new book, Zero Hour for Gen X: How the Last Adult Generation Can Save America from Millennials, he uses the word millennials as a stand-in for certain set of values, not a demographic marker. "The word is useful to me mostly as a proxy for the app-soaked, Millennial-friendly world that is still busy being born all around us."
  • Somerville, Massachusetts, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, has been calling for a boycott of Sam Adams beer after its owner had dinner with President Trump.