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When the Drug Enforcement Administration announced in late August that it would outlaw an opioid-like plant called kratom, the reaction was immediate. Kratom sellers threatened legal action. Over 130,000 people signed a petition to stop the ban. Some 400 users marched in front of the White House, with kids wearing shirts that said, “Kratom saved my mom.”

Now members of Congress are getting involved.

A bipartisan group has signed a letter asking the DEA to delay the kratom ban, calling the decision “hasty” and pointing out that there was no opportunity for public comment.

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By Thursday, about 25 House members had signed on, according to Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin who spearheaded the project with Republican Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona. The signatories include Representative John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, the longest-serving congressman and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Republican Representative Dr. Dan Benishek, also of Michigan, who is a family doctor and general surgeon.

Pocan’s office plans to send the letter Monday, after collecting a few more signatures.

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For Pocan, this political project is personal.

“We have a very close family friend in Colorado who has a number of ailments, but one is a mast cell disorder. Her hands get hard to move, it’s very difficult and painful for her,” he told STAT.

She tried a number of drugs, including steroids, but the only thing that helped was kratom, he said.

He became worried when he heard that the DEA was unilaterally classifying the substance as Schedule 1, which would make it as illegal as heroin, without any possibility for researchers and consumers to comment.

“They really haven’t done what I would consider due diligence,” he said. “With Schedule 1 there is supposed to be no medical use. … And there are at least three patents pending for medical uses.”

The DEA can temporarily outlaw a substance that constitutes a “public health crisis” without any outside input if the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug. Over the next two or three years, the Department of Health and Human Services then determines whether the drug is indeed a threat. If so, the ban becomes permanent; if not, it is reversed.

Pocan, however, is concerned that the DEA hasn’t done its research thoroughly enough.

He wanted to learn more, so he invited Susan Ash, the director of the American Kratom Association, to his office.

“It was unique,” said Ash. “I’ve been a lobbyist for much of my life, and I’ve never had an [congressional] office directly reach out asking for a face-to-face meeting.”

Last week, the night before she would lead the march in front of the White House, Ash told Pocan her own story of chronic pain, opiate addiction, and redemption through kratom. It was just one story of many that members of Congress have been hearing from constituents. They have called in to talk about using kratom as an alternative to opioids. Calls have also come from veterans who use the plant — either swallowed as a powder, taken as a pill, or drunk as a tea — to control their post-traumatic stress disorder.

The members of Congress noted that once kratom becomes illegal — even temporarily — it will be hard for research on the substance to move forward, as it has been for medical marijuana.

In early September, a DEA spokesperson told STAT that the temporary ban is “definitely going to happen as early as September 30.” The agency said it would respond to the letter from members of Congress, but would not comment until it was received.

  • The DEA needs to be banned. Talk about “reefer madness” syndrome. That’s what happens when you let a bunch of left leaning progressives and right wing do-gooders get in people’s business. Let’s ban the DEA, ATF, DOE, HUD, and a host of other useless bureaucratic make-work agencies. Let’s get the EPA while we’re at it.

  • It is most notable to publicly highlight the DEA’s most egregious behavior by contriving a national ‘Kratom Crisis’ whereby causing great alarm as a perpetuating threat to public safety.

    Simply, the DEA’s actions are nothing less than typical sociopathic behaviors–which is rather a scary.

    The DEA has created this contrived narrative by manipulating facts and blandly lying by omission regarding the harmfulness of Kratom justifying a schedule 1 placement for the plant.

    The DEA has also used the sociopathic tools of deflection by focusing on Kratom deaths that were grossly manipulated, undermining the 15 deaths in six years being a product of poly-substances. The DEA has also projected onto the Kratom community of users that they are simply, ‘abusers.’

    Exteme manipulation of facts, blatant lies that would normally go unchecked by the mass public, deflection and projection…and most fundamental, creating a false narrative to gain control, power, and profit…is completely sociopathic behaviors. And what always travels in tandem with sociopathy is it’s abused victims.

    The DEA has used its inexhaustible power, resources/money, and clout to abuse a small community of citizens that lack the power, money and status to effectively combat an agency like the DEA. Inequity as such just illustrates that extent of the DEA’s misconduct and abuse and the Kratom community is symbolic of the DEA’s victimization of innocent people reserving their right to better their life due to physical misfortune.

    It’s really time to investigate as to why the DEA would act in such a narcissistic, ignorant and dishonest manner–publicly. They should be held accountable for lying to the public about Kratom and acting in such an abusive manner.

  • I saw an article where Susan Ash was explaining about kratom supporters and their contribution to the effort of fighting the ban. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/869909. Why donations and who donates is an issue is beyond me. Pharmaceutical companies have high powered backers that like to remain anonymous, so they can push their agendas. So why can’t a group of common americans be able to do the same? When an organization starts to target other areas of a squabble that has nothing to do with the main issue signals to me that the opposition is drawing at straws because they are wrong and they are trying to sway attention elsewhere.

  • True Story:

    Living in Southern California, I accompanied my neighbor, a single-mother of a 12 year-old little boy, to the local botanical shop in our community.
    My neighbor was a 38 year-old, stage 4 breast cancer patient. She had been on large doses of morphine and Fentanyl patches that made her so groggy and dysfunctional, she could barely take care of her son. She would cry she was unable to drive him to school or simply take a walk to the beach without being coherent. She had researched and found Kratom, and shortly, she was functional again, not having to take the dangerous pain medications and was able to resume the remainder of her time that was given to her.

    Interestingly, as we were waiting in the local botanical for her order of Kratom one afternoon, counselors from the local heroin detox/rehab came into the store to speak with the manager. These two counselors implored, practically begged the botanical owner to stop letting their patients purchase Kratom at his store because a large number of their former heroin patients were not refilling their scripts of Methadone and Suboxone.
    These patients were using Kratom only with positive results, beating their addictions without of ancillary, addictive pharma drugs.

    I could not believe they had the audacity to make such a request on behalf of their patients. The owner politely replied he would do no such thing as he has been selling Kratom for a long, long time and has seen positive results for former hard, illegal drug users.
    I looked at my neighbor in complete horror and said, ‘watch, this plant will be banned in the near future by our government.’ This plant is stealing money from prescriptive drugs.

    Her reply, ‘Well, hopefully, I am gone by then, for the time being, I have my life back despite a Cancer Stage-Four death sentence.’ This incident occurred in 2014.

    My neighbor passed away in 2015 from breast cancer, but was able to enjoy her son and all the functionalities of being a productive parent minus the pain and the awful side effects of prescription opiates.

    Sure enough, imminently banned only two years later…

    • Aimee its stories like that that make me want to do everything in my power to put a halt to the daily bombardment of pharmaceuticals that you see 20 x’s a day on t.v. The ones that are being sued because they caused the death of patients who took them because their doctor prescribed them. Only to find out it caused more problems then they were led to believe they would fix. Should we expect the DEA would seize all of those medications? Of course not!! Because they are patented and made by drug companies who stand to profit millions. Even if they pay settlements to the families of those that died from their drugs, the drug companies still come out ahead.

    • Yes, Brian, I absolutely agree with you…
      Probably went something like this, since drug companies receive weekly reports of the amount of prescriptions written weekly by each medical doctor in specific regions, the companies noticed the decrease in scripts. This is when the drug reps are inadvertently held accountable by management and are advised to go into the account to investigate and unearth the reasons to the decline in scripts, since, the reps are also losing profit and cannot meet their quarterly goals.
      Most likely, Kratom was discovered as a threat to the rehab market, not by the FDA, but first, the drug companies. The drug companies notified the FDA, reporting this market share loss, not by a competing drug, but a plant!! Yikes!
      The FDA notifies the DEA, and it’s just not a big concern comparatively to the opiate crisis sweeping the nation. In addition, the DEA budget probably didn’t allow the room to conduct any maneuvering with Kratom, except for the intermittent custom seizures.
      When the FDA couldn’t intervene bc it’s technically a plant–that’s when individual States, tried to legislate Kratom as an illegally substance–unsuccessfully. The FDA and drug companies never expect State bills on Kratom to die in house. Thanks to Susan Ash and the AKA.
      Finally, the FDA got fed up and sought the DEA to exploit and abuse it’s powers with emergency scheduling of a natural plant!
      It is so painfully obvious what is going on…people are so much smarter now than 20 years ago. We laugh at big Pharms commercials that inundate us with the comical fatal side effects of a drug used to treat a non-fatal ailment!
      Then to the DEA’s horror, normal everyday people seep from the woodwork out of anonymity to protect this plant.
      It is really an amazing story…I hope to see a future, national headline that says, ‘The People who Fought the DEA…And Won!’
      God Bless Kratom and the Lives it has Saved.

    • I wouldn’t know how to articulate it that well. But no more said, you did a beautiful job of doing that. Perfect!!!! And it is funny how they make the people who use kratom sound like some uneducated street slug who is trying to get their next fix. When it is quite obviously the opposite….. Great job Aimee, thanks!!!

  • Let’s put it like this….. Release the toxicology reports of the 15 individuals who have died from using “just kratom”. That’s real easy. Show the toxicology reports!!!! Highlight where the only substance in the persons system is kratom. Nothing else….just kratom??? The DEA has enough information concerning this plant to ban. And they did the the autopsy of the 15 people to definitely point at kratom as result. But without notice they were in a hurry to ban the plant without public opinion. They won’t say……but if history tells us anything. The DEA are the prostitutes of the FDA. As far as I am concerned. If the FDA knows what is good for the American public. Then why are all these FDA approved drugs from the pharmaceutical companies always being sued by one lawyer or another for the cause of death by using the “FDA APPROVED DRUGS”? The FDA should be disbanded!!!!! If I knew that anything could ever make that happen I would certainly be all for it.

    • Absolutely agree with you. Make no mistake, do not be circumnavigated into believing that these orders or ‘interests’ are originating from the DEA. Realistically, this initiative is being pushed forth by the FDA, who have more of an interest in keeping an inexpensive, highly efficacious, low side effect profile, and a unquestionable safety profile of a plant that provides a holistic, natural supplemental relief that bypasses any chemical synthesized by a pharma company. I had the pleasure of working for large pharma and know how closely the FDA and big money navigate the course of ‘medicine’
      It is a tragedy in this nation that in order to seek justice, you have to compete with astronomical amounts of money.
      May the AKA persevere in this unprecedented endeavor and protect the human rights and medical choices of the fallen and protect a plant that has been put on this earth for medicinal remedy and relief…

  • Kratom did save my life. It doesnt get you high but it does boost my mood and energy level. It has kept me away from strong dangerous drugs for months and if its banned it will ruin many lives.

    • Yes Jaime just like Gingko Biloba. Which just makes me angry for some reason. I can’t take the Gingko because of that.

  • If we let these selfish people get away with this, its like letting them get away with one of the biggest cases of serial murders considering how important this is to society as a whole. If this gets temperately banned it will be permanent. The DEA has always tried to make it sound as though they are going to make sure things are investigated or researched but the only results are things that can potentially make money for theirs and other peoples personal pockets. The FDA has never approved any natural medicine despite natural medicine being scientifically proven safe and often more effective because of the presence of other molecules in the source material. They don’t even approve medicines for all medical purposes even when they have been proven safe to do so and many people including children have suffered and died because of this. Basically if we allow this to happen everything kratom can do and its safe usage will be out the door except for what they agree to be bribed to allow. Innovation, technology and many other things would be negatively affected because of how much impact this herb has on society as a whole. So even if you don’t need it or ever intend to, it will still affect your life in this case. As an example many geniuses rely on kratom to allow them to create new things and to help them work more efficiently. That’s just one example. In this case it will affect absolutely everybody negatively regardless, even the crooked FDA, and DEA.

  • Personally…as a kratom user,for over 2 years now with ALS ( lu Gehrig’s disease) kratom has helped me tremendously when nothing else did! I was living off of pain meds that the DEA gladly supplies to keep u hooked and the $ rolling in for them! I was hurting myself worse over medicating myself with pain meds! When I discovered kratom from a friend of mine that takes it for back pain …I decided I had nothing else to loose but to try it! And its worked for me since and I no longer have taken the pain meds that was killing me worse than this!
    I’m glad at least congress has spoke up and at least trying to protect our rights!!
    For the DEA! YOU are killing people!! Plain and simple!! And YOUR rights to enforce such a thing without research or reading other peoples testimony’s is a bunch a bull and only shows that you care bout keeping your drugs down peoples throat and killing us! I hope u have families that suffer and endure the pain we do and then have your rights stripped!! To me…you are no better …and a murderer and one day you will ALL b judged for your actions! I hope I’m there to see that day!

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