Kratom is a Southeast Asian plant related to coffee that millions use for conditions varying from depression and anxiety to sleep disturbances and chronic pain. In the last decade, kratom has been forced to face multiple blockades in order to remain legal and readily available to the public. Not unlike what happened with the Pacific Islands shrub kava which became a popular supplement for anxiety and panic attack sufferers, the force of disinformation and heavy pressure from the powerful pharmaceutical lobby led to some scares that nearly ended in the plant panacea becoming contraband.
The latest direct threat to kratom on the federal level is the SITSA bill which aims to stop the importation of synthetic analogues of opioids. On the surface, this is something nearly everyone can agree on considering the dire state of the opioid epidemic in the US. That said, as one kratom advocate I know said recently "SITSA is about curbing opioids the way that the Patriot Act was about keeping Americans safe." In other words, as with so many bills, piggybacking on an idea that can easily gain bipartisan support (whether it's "curb the opioid epidemic" or "keep Americans safe") is a great way to insert potentially dangerous legislation hidden.
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Take for instance FOSTA which has, once again, a lofty goal in its title. Stopping sex trafficking, sure. I mean, who wants humans to be forced into sex slavery, right? Problem is, it has the unintended consequence of not only eroding internet freedoms but may also make life more difficult and dangerous for sex workers (legal or otherwise). Then there's the Omnibus bill which was "about spending," but hidden within the massive 2200+ pages of the spending bill lurked the CLOUD Act which effectively invalidates 4th amendment right of freedom from illegal search and seizure and privacy when one is online.
SITSA could create similar unintended negative consequences if it's used to target kratom which is currently used by some estimated millions in the US alone. Many people who previously used prescription pharmaceuticals found they improved their quality of life and were able to rid themselves of the inebriation and addiction that are part and parcel of taking certain classes of drugs like the anxiolytics and analgesics. SITSA just passed and despite the admirable goal of quelling the importation of dangerous analogue drugs, could be used to ban kratom at the federal level. FDA Commissioner Gottlieb has previously labeled kratom "an opioid" which is something of a misnomer. Yes, kratom has some weak to mild opiate binding properties. But do you know what else does? Coffee, dairy products and strenuous exercise as well as a whole host of other completely legal and fairly safe compounds. Labeling kratom "an opioid" is intellectual dishonesty at its best. It is equivocation to the point of prevarication and it opens the door for kratom to be made contraband overnight at the discretion of the Attorney General.
Currently, several scientists are lobbying Congress in attempt to push back against the possibility, of SITSA loophole making the plant illegal. Congressman Mark Pocan and Paul Gosar's amendment that would exempt kratom is currently waiting to be heard so it's not too late to contact your representatives about H.R. 2851 and S.B. 1327. Currently, the Kratom Trade Association, American Kratom Association and Botanical Education Alliance are coordinating efforts to support the Pocan-Gosar amendment. Even if the Pocan-Gosar amendment is picked up, there is still another potential hurdle as over 30 "opioid crisis bills" have been passed in this month alone. House Bill 5228, the SCREEN Act is another bill that could potentially restrict herbal medicines considering the vagueness of legislative language regarding "adulterated or misbranded drugs."