Regulatory Update: Global Kratom Ban 2021

The FDA Is At It Again

Let’s get this out of the way first, kratom is legal and will continue to be legal in 2021. (Unless, of course, you live in the six states and handful of municipalities that banned it in 2016.) In July, however, the FDA announced that they were preparing comments to the World Health Organization (WHO). The question at hand: should the WHO implement an international kratom ban – an act that would force the US to follow suit.

The FDA is collecting public comments. They will take these comments and consider them when writing their recommendation. If you care about kratom and want it to remain legal, you should submit a comment to the FDA. That’s step one.

There’s another step because we can’t guarantee the FDA is actually going to review our comments and submit them to the WHO. The problem is that the law doesn’t specify how the FDA has to review public comments, or how they have to report them to the WHO. This is a loophole. It’s a loophole we know the FDA is going to exploit – but our community has a solution.

Leave your comment at protectkratom.org. The American Kratom Association is delivering these comments directly to the WHO, which ensures our voices are heard. And if you had doubts about the AKA’s effectiveness, they recently sued and won a lawsuit against the FDA for not giving the public enough time to submit comments about the proposed international kratom ban. In turn, the FDA reopened the comment period until August 24th, 2021.

In a worst case scenario–which would be the WHO deciding to move forward with an international kratom ban–it wouldn’t go into effect until 2023. But this is only part of the story. Read on to learn more about the potential kratom ban of 2021.

Don’t panic, know the facts

If you’re like the rest of us in the kratom-sphere, you’re probably confused by what has been going on recently. The facts are, the potential kratom ban of 2021 won’t result in kratom becoming illegal in 2021. We wanted to first quell any immediate anxieties felt by those in the kratom community who, like us, would see a diminished quality of life if a kratom ban was realized. Take a deep breath, it is going to be okay.

But that is not to say that this is not a matter of great importance. In fact, if you were to go so far as to call it an existential threat, you wouldn’t be wrong. A kratom ban would mark the end of the legal kratom trade as we know it. At least for now. As we’ll see later in this post, the kratom ban is a battle in the much greater War on Drugs. A lot of the pushback regarding the potential kratom ban of 2021 is attached to the feeling that criminalizing any plant, substance, or chemical is an outdated way of approaching a social problem that may or may not even be a problem in the first place!

Whether you’re coming at the potential kratom ban of 2021 as a season kratom advocate, anti-prohibitionist, or just someone who drinks a different tea for breakfast, below is everything you need to know.

WHAT IS KRATOM?

Kratom is an evergreen tree that grows in the South East Pacific. It has a many centuries-old tradition of use in Thailand. Usually it is used for it’s energizing properties. Generations of Thai farmers spend their entire lives either chewing the leaves or brewing them into a tea as their “coffee”. With little to no ill effects reported in over 350 years of record keeping. In fact, kratom is a close botanical cousin to coffee!

WHAT IS KRATOM TEA?

In the US, kratom has seen growing popularity in the last two decades. Due to economic and shipping reasons, kratom arrives in the US as a powder. Without education or a connection to the traditional use of kratom, the majority of US consumers take kratom by the spoonful, swallowing the leaf powder whole

Kratom tea is one of the oldest ways of consuming kratom. Yet in the US the tradition is widely overlooked. At Top Tree, we are steadfast believers that the best way for kratom to be normalized and permanently escape the fear of prohibition is to be consumed as a tea. Traditionally, kratom is used as a food product like coffee. Yet the spoon feeding of powdered kratom in the US has regulators calling it a drug.

BRIEF HISTORY OF KRATOM BANS

THAILAND 1943

In 1943, Thailand was involved in World War 2. Money was tight. A substantial amount of money was coming through the lucrative opium tax levied on the Thai populace. Through a multitude of reasons, not least being the financial and personal demands of the war, the opium users of Thailand began to look for an alternative.

Normally an uncomfortable habit to kick, opium sales, and thus taxes, decreased sizably.  The culprit? Word was being passed around that the familiar, traditional therapeutic-herb and energizing-leaf kratom could curb withdrawal. This much, at least, was bluntly stated by Police Major General Pin Amornwisaisoradej. In short, kratom was banned because it decreased the amount of opium taxes the government collected.

So kratom was made illegal. They followed the central fallacy of prohibition, believing that banning a substance or plant could effect people behavior of consumption. Having centuries of traditional use already behind it, the ban did not result in the end of kratom consumption. Forests full of kratom trees were chopped down. And still, people continued to use kratom. Making nature illegal is harder than they thought.

USA 2016

Lying through their teeth, the DEA announced on October 23, 2016 that kratom was a “drug of abuse” and had no medicinal or therapeutic properties. Therefore, it should be scheduled as a category 1 substance. They would be, begrudgingly, accepting public comment regarding this decision for the next 30 days as laid out in the Controlled Substance Act. 

Following the DEA listing their intention on the Federal Register, the federal public notification board, something unprecedented happened. Thousands of kratom activists wrote comments on the Federal Register. Hundreds of thousands signed petitions and urged their congressperson to put their foot down. There were protests in front of the White House.

Intrigued by the attention, and at the 60 signatures of Representatives and Senators attached to a pro-kratom letter, the Health and Human Services (HHS) looked into the case more closely. The HHS is the parent organization of the DEA, FDA, and numerous other federal agencies. All set to side with the DEA, the HHS asked for some citations regarding the dangers of kratom touted in the federal register listing.

Caught in their lie, the DEA rescinded their intention to ban kratom. Then, the fate of kratom was turned over to the FDA. They said that that they would review the science. Kratom would now be given a fair trial. And with that, for the first time in the history of the controlled substance act, a listed substance was saved from criminalization.

THE RETURN

Obviously, this is not where the story ends. What followed was years of harassment and sabotage from the FDA through import alerts, raids, and seizures. The FDA even suppressed a letter from their boss at the HHS saying that there was no scientific evidence for classifying kratom as dangerous and that banning it would endanger the lives of millions.

Still, kratom continued to draw the ire of the FDA. The exact reason is unknown, but we recommend that internet sleuths follow the money. Kratom scares a lot of people in lucrative industries such as rehabs or pill mills. Given their continual lying, we doubt it is because they believe making kratom illegal is best for our citizens.

KRATOM BAN 2021

We described in an earlier post what was happening with kratom when it was first posted on the federal register. Then, the primary course of action was getting as many signatures on the comment section as much as possible. In short, the comments will be considered by the FDA, and then the WHO. They will weigh them in deciding whether or not to make kratom illegal through international law.

Although a pittance in the grand scheme of activism, we followed up our post by encouraging our friends and family to write a comment. Friend and Top Tree Affiliate Hamilton Morris took to his social channel to encourage his followers to do the same.

We also alerted our friends in the Decriminalize Nature movement as well. Although kratom had fallen short on their radar previously, once we caught them up to date with history of kratom prohibition and the present situation, they were fully onboard. They were all to familiar with the prohibitionist spirit we are up against.

And if you happen to be one of our newsletter subscribers, you’ll have caught the several emails sent regarding the ban. We’re not going to let this pass by quietly, and neither should you.

UPDATES

Originally, the final day for comments to be submitted to the Federal Register was Monday, August 9th.  However, the AKA sued the FDA for giving an inadequate amount of time for comments. Although they were not successful in the lawsuit, the FDA budged and reopened the comment period, beginning Monday, August 16th.  .

You can submit your comment directly to the AKA via protectkratom.org.  The AKA is the American Kratom Association. They are the kratom consumer advocacy group. Since 2016, they have been dedicated to protecting kratom from legal threats such as the one we’re now facing . The AKA is asking for the comments to be submitted directly through them instead of through the federal register portal. This is so that they can confirm that the WHO sees them during the hearing in front of the UN. Understandably so, the AKA does not trust the FDA to present these comments with their recommendation to the WHO on whether or not to ban kratom.

We recommend you take 40 minutes to watch this video produced by the AKA. It includes some inspirational words from Congressman Pocan as well other updates regarding the kratom ban 2021.

Timeline

  • The first proposed final comment date conclusion for the Federal Register was 8/9/21.
  • The AKA was able to reopen the comment period beginning August 9th.
  • Once the comment period concludes, the FDA will read the comments. Having read the comments, they will prepare their statement to the WHO concerning their recommendation. More than likely, they will argue that kratom should be listed under the International Convention on Psychotropic Substances (ICPS).
  • The WHO will then present their argument to a UN expert Committee in Geneva, Switzerland. Tailored by the recommendation of the FDA, but also including the comments submitted by AKA. This will occur in October.
  • The UN Committee will assign an expert panel If they decides that kratom should be included in the ICPS. The panel will then do further research for a year before making a final decision.
  • If everything goes wrong for kratom (e.g. FDA makes a bad recommendation. The WHO fully sides with the FDA. The expert panel ignores the science regarding kratom and reiterates the FDA’s position) then in October of 2023 kratom would become illegal by international treaty.
  • If kratom is added to the ICPS, then the DEA would begin the process outlined in the Controlled Substance Act for criminalizing substances based on the US’s treaty obligation to the ICPS. Presumably as early as Oct. 2023. There will then be a comment period for about a month. After the comment period ends, kratom will become a controlled substances.

WRAPPING THINGS UP

However, the scheduling can play out differently. The science is indubitably in favor of keeping kratom legal. None of the claims about the dangers of kratom were true in 2016. There has been a lot of progress concerning kratom research since 2016. There are many more kratom citations now than in 2016 in the scientific literature. All are favorable to our position.

As you can see, a defeat would be crippling,. On the other hand, a victory would be a demonstration that kratom is here to stay. In the video by the AKA, they call this the final battle for kratom.  Having exhausted the federal route in 2016, and having failed to get many states to make it illegal, the only option left for the enemies of kratom is to take it internationally. They are now standing on their final battleground. Please, take the time to write your public comment. Stop the kratom ban of 2021.