Kratom News for the Week
Kratom is off the DEA "Hit list": "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern". (We have verified this with a regional DEA agent.) Hurray!
The head of the DEA, Michele Leonhart, is resigning due to embarassment over some DEA agents partying with Colombian drug magnates and teenage hookers. We will be watching when a new Director of the DEA is appointed, and working to continue the growth in the DEA's understanding of kratom.
Things are looking up for kratom in Florida. We're looking good in Louisiana, too...
We had a quick success on Monday of this week (April 27th), when a hasty email campaign prevented kratom from being banned in Louisiana. The state representatives even thanked us for helping them to understand the good that kratom is doing in their state. (More on this spectacular turnaround in next week's blog.)
To end this blog on a very positive note, something nice and unexpected happened on Wednesday, the 22nd of April.
If you remember the troubles for kratom in Florida really began in July of last year. A troubled young man, Ian Mautner, committed suicide by diving off a freeway overpass and his mother blamed his "addiction to kratom". People who knew Ian said his mother was leaving out some important facts to make the story less embarrassing to her, perhaps, and to make the story more damaging to kratom.
She took her sad story to the Palm Beach County Council and tried to get them to ban kratom in that county. She, of course, found a lot of support from the Drug Addiction Recovery Industry, which is a big business in South Florida. Not coincidentally, Florida was also the epicenter of the OxyContin "pill mills" where a few years ago, it was easy to obtain a prescription for opiates of all types and then deliver the pills throughout the Eastern U.S. for big profits.
So, to make a long story short, Mrs. Mautner was politely listened to by the Palm Beach County Council, but they decided not to ban kratom there. Instead, they proposed to create signage to warn the patrons of kava bars, smokeshops, and other places where kratom was sold. A budget of $25,000 was allotted to this item, with a sizeable chunk (~$7,000?) to go to the Ian Mautner Foundation to "educate" youths about the supposed evils of kratom use.
Mrs. Mautner also tried to get Broward County to ban kratom and they also politely said "No", but Kristin Jacobs took the project to the State legislature, where she became a State Representative. Her first bill was the one to ban kratom statewide, but Susan Ash of the AKA, with the help of other friends of kratom, got that shot down until next year, if at all.
Well, on Wednesday, The Palm Beach County Council was to vote on the signage that was meant to warn buyers of kratom of the usual laundry list of mythical side-effects copied from the DEA's talking points (addiction, psychosis, respiratory depression, vomiting). The sign was introduced with the now-incorrect mention that kratom is on the DEA's list of "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern".
Three people spoke in opposition to the signage, pointing out that it is no longer on the DEA's list of "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern" and that there were other factual inaccuracies with the sign. Attorney Elizabeth Gardner, an advisor to the AKA, spoke on behalf of her client James Scianno who owns a couple of kava bars in the area. Another local Palm Beach attorney, Neil Schiller, spoke on behalf of the advocacy group Plants, People, and Health, LLC. A third speaker opposed the very concept of banning herbs at all. What a great position to take!
What we didn't know was that a powerful lobbying group that has been working behind the scenes to keep kratom legal had spent most of the week schooling the Palm Beach Council about the true facts concerning kratom -- and the Council was ready to vote unanimously to table the signage until such time as there appears it may be warranted. There are two studies they are waiting on -- one from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, due next Fall; the other by Dr. Christopher McCurdy of the University of Mississippi, which we have reason to believe will give Mitragyna speciosa a clean bill of health. We doubt the FDLE report will find that kratom is causing any medical issues, murders, or DUI incidents. (Besides, they have flakka (a new synthetic drug) to worry about.)
To sum up all this activity, I will say that we are finding that kratom has a lot of friends and allies. The AKA (American Kratom Association) is finding new sources of support and is working with increasingly well-coordinated team spirit to quickly overcome the misunderstandings that the public and legislators have about this herb. Because the federal government seems to have realized that kratom is not a threat, individual states may try to criminalize kratom one-by-one. We are prepared to painstakingly explain that kratom is no threat to them, either, but offers states many cost-saving and health-improving benefits.
On another front, the DEA director has submitted her resignation. She had been unhappy about the federal non-response to the growing legalization of cannabis. Hopefully, President Obama will replace her with someone who will go after the real threats coming from synthetic chemicals and leave kratom alone.
Here is a video clip from the Pam Beach County Council meeting of April 22, 2015. The part about the kratom signage is brief and starts at 11:41.