DEA defies senators’ appeal to reconsider ‘unprecedented’ kratom ban

By Christopher Ingraham

A sign with a DEA badge marks the entrance to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum in Arlington, Virginia, August 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A bipartisan group of nine senators is calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to delay its “unprecedented” decision to ban kratom, a plant that researchers say holds great potential for mitigating the effects of the opioid epidemic.

The DEA recently decided to place kratom into schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive regulatory category, on a temporary, emergency basis “to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.”

The Senate letter, spearheaded by Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, says that “Congress granted emergency scheduling authority to the DEA based on the need for law enforcement interdiction of new and previously unknown illegal synthetic street drugs that result in injuries and death. The use of this emergency authority for a natural substance is unprecedented, so it is important to determine whether the circumstances here necessitate a jump to Schedule I.”

“Given the long reported history of Kratom use,” the letter continues, “coupled with the public’s sentiment that it is a safe alternative to prescription opioids, we believe using the regular review process would provide for a much-needed discussion among all stakeholders.”

The DEA announced its plan to place kratom in Schedule 1 only one month ago, using an emergency authority that does not require it to solicit public feedback on the decision. Blowback from pain patients was swift and furious and appears to have caught the DEA off-guard.

People who take the plant have shared their stories on how kratom helped them overcome addiction to opiates or alcohol, or how its helped them to treat otherwise intractable pain. Researchers say that their work with the …read more

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