Newest Kratom Organization - Global Kratom Coalition

Global Kratom Coalition: What Makes it a Unique Kratom Organization?

The kratom advocacy community has seen many advocacy groups come and go in the past decade. Though the American Kratom Association has become a stalwart organization with a great deal of support from kratom consumers and vendors alike, a new legislation-focused advocacy group with a slightly different mission has popped up: the Global Kratom Coalition.

The Global Kratom Coalition (GKC) is the newest addition to the lineup of organizations that promote the leaf of the Mitragyna speciosa tree.

The Past and Present Landscape of the AKA and Other Kratom Advocacy Organizations

Many kratom advocacy organizations—from the ones supporting legislation and research to those that are focused on outreach and consumer education—have boomed and gone bust in the past decade. Staying on top of the who’s-who in the kratom advocacy community can therefore be somewhat challenging.

For the last many years, the American Kratom Association (AKA) has been the dominating force lobbying for kratom regulation and preventing kratom bans across the country.

Susan Ash, Paul Kemp, and Sebastian Guthery founded the AKA in 2014. The association has had a number of directors, including Nancy Pelosi’s son Paul Pelosi Jr.. The face of the organization is now Mac Haddow, who has served as their Senior Fellow on Public Policy for over 7 years.

Related: Kratom Science’s Brian Gallagher Speaks with AKA Founder Susan Ash

Given that the AKA is a fairly well-organized group tackling a breadth of issues with support from many stakeholders in the kratom community, why would a new group come up out of the woodwork?

Let’s explore how kratom industry organizations work, what controversies surround them, and which role the Global Kratom Coalition is looking to fill in the kratom advocacy space.

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How Trade Organizations Like the Global Kratom Coalition Function in the Kratom World and Beyond

The primary focus of the AKA and the GKC is to pass legislation which is favorable for the kratom industry.

They are both trade organizations. These are groups of businesses operating within a shared space who have gathered together (often operating under bylaws) to promote a favorable public opinion of their industry while supporting legislation and politicians who will benefit them. Such organizations are almost as ubiquitous in politics as the politicians themselves.

Are All Trade Organizations Purely Profit-Focused?

Trade organizations’ industry-first, and thus profit-first, mentalities may sound bleak, but they aren’t entirely bad. Though many trade organizations may not place consumer wellbeing at the heart of their mission, prioritizing consumer wellbeing is often critical to sustaining their markets.

These trade groups are legally allowed to collaborate on almost any subject other than the cost of their goods or services. When that happens, it constitutes a breach of antitrust laws, and the organization would be considered a cartel.

In the kratom space, trade organizations have fought to defend the legality of kratom. They have opposed county, city, state, federal, and even international kratom bans. Kratom organizations have also lobbied for regulations which they hope will preempt bans. Additionally, they attempt to make the consumer market safer by requiring third-party testing, age limits, and product formulation restrictions.

People refer to the regulatory bills that the AKA has authored and introduced as the “Kratom Consumer Protection Act,” or KCPA for short. A handful of states have used the same title or a similar one for unique legislation that does not resemble the AKA-written bill. For the most part, though, KCPA legislation comes from the AKA.

Related: Why Top Tree Herbs and Other Kratom Industry Leaders Support the Kratom Consumer Protection Act

Why Lobbying is Considered a Necessary Evil in the Kratom World

In the years since populist U.S. senator Bernie Sanders launched his first primary campaign, lobbying has both grown and seen a great deal of pushback. The concern is that a small minority of people or businesses can use their outsized socioeconomic resources to persuade public officials to support causes which benefit them.

Many recognize lobbying as a cause and symptom of a failing democracy. In this sociopolitical system, majority opinions do not guide policy.

The Broader Context of Kratom Organization Lobbying

Why, then, would we justify the use of lobbying to support pro-kratom legislation? For kratom trade organization and their supporters, lobbying is viewed as a way to balance the scales that were unfairly positioned against kratom in the past.

Many Americans have a prohibitionist mindset that developed in the wake of the decades-long War on Drugs. In this context, kratom has been unjustly stigmatized, and passing laws that are favorable for kratom has been incredibly difficult. To make things more challenging, kratom is a natural product that blurs the lines between food, supplement, and drug.

For kratom organizations and their supporters, lobbying is viewed as a way to balance the scales that were unfairly positioned against kratom in the past.

The FDA and other federal organizations have thus been fairly antagonistic towards kratom in past decades.

In response, kratom trade organizations have fought fire with fire. The kratom industry lobbyists have held strategically targeted fundraisers, organized grassroots campaigns, petitioned for legislation at various levels of government, and unified the scientific messaging regarding the kratom plant and kratom-derived products. They have been able to defeat bans, promote consumer-forward kratom laws, and defend the right for the kratom market to exist.

Advocates joined the AKA in Washington, DC for a Congressional Briefing on Kratom Science and Policy
For many years, the AKA has organized advocacy efforts to help gain policymaker support for the KCPA at the state and federal levels. In December of 2023, vendors and consumers met in Washington D.C. to support the Federal KCPA.

Who Funds the American Kratom Association and the Global Kratom Coalition?

Both the GKC and AKA spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to lobby for pro-kratom legislation, prevent bans, and counter unfair litigation. Each kratom organization also raises money for independent studies, fund university research departments, and contribute to kratom research symposia. So, who’s footing the bill for all of their work?

Like most trade organizations in other industries, the AKA and GKC are primarily funded by the businesses who make up their ranks. The AKA also receives support from individuals (typically consumer advocates) who support their mission.

The AKA historically received money from brands for certifying them as “GMP-qualified” through the AKA Good Manufacturing Practice Standards Program. Companies could undergo an audit to ensure they were following GMP guidelines, and would then pay to be verified by the AKA and listed on its website. However, following recent litigation, the reputability of this GMP Standards Program has been called into question.

The Global Kratom Coalition is a relatively new organization. However, the people and businesses that make it up have been contributing to the kratom space for a long time. The GKC was founded by members of the Botanic Tonics team. Botanic Tonics is the brand behind Feel Free, a popular kratom kava tonic that we’ve covered in past articles. Botanic Tonics was, and still is, a major financial supporter of the AKA as well.

Since its founding, the GKC’s membership has expanded. It now includes a number of other kratom businesses, including Top Tree Herbs.

How is the Global Kratom Coalition Different from Every Other Kratom Organization?

The Global Kratom Coalition is a very similar kratom organization to the American Kratom Association. Yet it has a few unique founding principles that influence its actions.

Both groups brand themselves as organizations dedicated to consumer education and safety. Nevertheless, they exist due to funding from kratom businesses. As such, each has the implicit goal of passing laws that are favorable for the kratom market.

The Global Kratom Coalition rebranded several times in the first few months of its existence. (We understand, Top Tree has rebranded a few times, too.) These changes were the result of many internal debates regarding the goals of the organization.

The GKC originated as The Kratom Coalition. They then rebranded as the Leaf Kratom Coalition. This second name highlighted their preference for the sale and consumption of whole-leaf kratom products. Following pushback from other vendors in regards to their apparent anti-extract stance, they changed their name again. Finally, the organization landed on the Global Kratom Coalition.

The makeup of the organization has shifted over time. However, the executive director, Matthew Lowe, and the primary funding source, Botanic Tonics, have remained the same.

At the time of writing, there are eight listed industry supporters of the GKC. They are Botanic Tonics, Top Tree Herbs, New Brew, Urban Ice Botanicals, OG Kratom, Kava Garden, MIT 45, and Pure Leaf.

The Organized Fight Against High-Potency Kratom Products

The Global Kratom Coalition has largely set itself apart from the American Kratom Association by pushing for legislation that includes serving size limits. Since its inception, the GKC has tried to limit the negative impact of the proliferation of high-potency kratom products on the market. 

On the whole, the GKC is worried that high-potency products increase the potential for consumer harm and overdoses. These products, which include isolated extracts of a single major or minor alkaloids, are oftentimes insufficiently labeled, aggressively marketed, and under-researched.

It isn’t difficult to imagine how the entire kratom community could be collectively harmed by a single bad actor selling a highly concentrated product that leads to negative side effects for consumers. The GKC believes that establishing limits on the amount of certain alkaloids allowed in a single serving of a kratom product will prevent the whole kratom community from facing any sort of collective punishment.

Inclusion of Serving Size Limits in Kratom Legislation

These concerns have influenced the language of the GKC-sponsored kratom bill in California. Serving size restrictions have also been included in amendments to the proposed Oklahoma KCPA.

There are some rifts between the AKA and the GKC regarding the strategic sensibility of adding serving size limits to the bills. The AKA is mainly focused on getting a critical number of states to pass the KCPA. They believe this will lower the barrier to passage of kratom legislation on the federal level. (Analogously, passing a recreational cannabis law on the federal level would have seemed impossible just a decade ago. Now, with over half of the states allowing medical or recreational cannabis, a change in cannabis scheduling seems imminent.)

The AKA posits that adding additional language to the KCPA would slow the adoption of regulations. They argue that the Global Kratom Coalition’s approach would extend the timeline for an eventual shot at passing the federal KCPA and nationwide regulations.

Ultimately, despite these differences of opinion, there is more cooperation and communication between the organizations than there is competition.

Top Tree Herbs Supports the Global Kratom Coalition to Fight Prohibition from All Sides

Top Tree Herbs was one of the early supporters of the Global Kratom Coalition. The kratom tea co. joined when it the kratom organization still had the name Leaf Kratom Coalition.

Top Tree supports the Global Kratom Coalition for a distinctive, well-defined purpose: to support consumers by promoting anti-prohibitionist kratom policy. Top Tree believes that prohibition of any kind—not just of kratom products—harms consumers. It does so by limiting consumers’ access to knowledge, safe supply, and a life without stigma.

While Top Tree’s kratom tea is a low-strength whole-leaf kratom product, the company doesn’t support the stigmatization of kratom-derived extracts. We believe that these products shouldn’t be excluded from the marketplace so long as companies safely manufacture, label, and market them.

Related: How Labeling and Marketing Mistakes Greatly Contributed to Consumer Issues with Kratom Products

Top Tree Herbs was founded by consumers who were tired of the stigma surrounding kratom. On top of that, they were disappointed in the lack of product options that were lab-tested and reliable. They believed that starting a company could give consumers access to safe products. Importantly, it would also allow them to fight drug prohibitionism and stigmatization on a daily basis.

While Top Tree Herbs doesn’t necessarily support every action taken by the Global Kratom Coalition, the American Kratom Association, or other kratom advocacy groups, we believe it’s essential to work together to create policy that will improve peoples’ lives.

Are These Kratom Organizations Making Tangible Impacts?

The Global Kratom Coalition is still fairly new. Nevertheless, it seems as though the collaboration between businesses and scientists will make meaningful change in the kratom community. They have already created many useful resources for vendors and consumers. For instance, they recently released a list of localities that have prohibited the sale of kratom. This can help prevent damage to the entire industry from vendors inadvertently selling kratom products in regions where they are illegal.

Without a doubt, the AKA’s work has been extremely successful. In the past few years, they have prevented ban bills in states like West Virginia and convinced legislators to pass the KCPA in 13 states. They have loudly opposed misleading media stories, garnered support for federal kratom regulation, and done much more. Importantly, the AKA also unified the diverse voices speaking in favor of kratom.

Related: How Old Do You Have to Be to Purchase Kratom? Legality Guide for All U.S. States

While some anti-kratom policies have cropped up, the tides are still shifting away from prohibitionism. The kratom community is both following in the footsteps of policy advocates in other fields and setting a great example for organizations in other industries.

Cannabis is legal in more states than not. Researchers are advancing psychedelics through stage three clinical trials with the FDA. Many cities have legalized natural psychedelics. States throughout the U.S. are passing kratom bills… After more than 50 years of the War on Drugs, this is heartwarming to witness.

Learn More and Become an Advocate

Top Tree Herbs proudly supports any kratom organization or advocacy group that promotes sensible policy regarding psychoactive substances. We oppose any and all policies that look to perpetuate the historically damaging strategies of prohibitionism.

We are excited to continue working with the Global Kratom Coalition to fight for a safer, more accessible, and more sustainable kratom market. If you’d like to know more about the Global Kratom Coalition, you can learn about them here.

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Soren Shade
Soren Shade is the Founder and CEO of Top Tree Herbs. He was the producer for Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, and continues to produce the Hamilton Morris Podcast. He writes with a holistic look at natural and synthetic pharmacology, traditions-of-use, and a love for freedom of consciousness. You can find Soren rock climbing or advocating for sensible drug reform and anti-prohibition.

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