We Still Have a Chance to Stop Kratom Prohibition – And the DEA Actually Wants to Hear Your Thoughts
This summer, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its intent to ban kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia and currently used by millions in the United States. After DPA members and activists sent over 70,000 messages to Congress, 51 U.S. Representatives and almost a dozen Senators asked the DEA to postpone their ban.
With an incoming presidential administration that’s looking more hostile to equitable drug policies by the day, it’s imperative for us to make the most of this opportunity to stop the senseless criminalization of millions more people. Ominously, drug war extremist and professional racist Jeff Sessions has been tapped to lead the Justice Department, which oversees the DEA, making it hard to imagine them showing restraint on kratom prohibition post-inauguration. (You can ask your Senator to oppose Sessions’ nomination here.)
Given the widespread moral, political and scientific consensus that drug use and addiction are best treated as health issues, there’s no good reason for people who use kratom to be treated as criminals – especially considering how much we already know about prohibition’s shamefully disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups.
· Many people struggling with opioid addiction have turned to kratom to help them cut back or quit, but now all promising scientific studies on kratom’s role in opioid treatment could be immediately shut down.
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In the long run, what we really need is a new, post-prohibition drug classification system that’s based on science and best public health practices. Kratom is suffering the same fate as countless other medicinal plants that have been used by our ancestors for millennia -- there’s no profit incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do years of clinical research to gain FDA approval for a plant that they can’t patent for prescription use, which leaves it in a regulatory gray area.
It makes no sense for the DEA to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice, especially when its successive directors have systematically abused their discretionary powers in this area. Responsibility for deciding drug classifications and public health policies should be completely removed from the DEA and transferred to a health or science agency. (Check out DPA’s “Fire the DEA” campaign to learn more about how the DEA has fueled mass incarceration, wasted taxpayer money, and blocked scientific research.)
In the meantime, it’s crucial for us to accelerate a new vision for ethical drug policies before the next misguided “drug scare” inevitably rears its head. Now’s the time to strike while the iron’s hot and we still have a fighting chance to stop the madness of kratom prohibition.
This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.