Feds Walk Back Kratom Ban, Now Seek Public Feedback 

click to enlarge A sample of kratom products available for purchase in Boise. - KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
  • A sample of kratom products available for purchase in Boise.
In late September, users and retailers of kratom (derived from the Mitragyna speciosa plant) were bracing for a federal decision that would classify the herbal supplement a Schedule I substance, which would put it in the same category as heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Now, it looks like that's not going to happen—at least not right away.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced its intention to schedule kratom—derived from a southeast Asian tree and known for its quasi-opioid effects—in a late-August notice, taking many in the kratom community by surprise. More alarming, the ban would have come down Sept. 30.

"I was given notice two months ago that kratom was going to be looked at in five years. Then I get this one-month notice that it's going to be scheduled," LeRoy Cheyney, owner of Boise-based WellBeing Holistic Health Co-Op, told Boise Weekly about a week before the ban was set to go into effect. "This totally blindsided me."

Pushback was fierce and widespread, with a petition to stall the Schedule I listing garnering more than 130,000 signatures. Following the outcry, the DEA has taken the unprecedented step of walking back its proposed ban. The agency will instead seek public comment on kratom, which millions have claimed helps ease chronic pain, treat depression and insomnia, and may even help opioid addicts kick their habit.

"Since publishing [the Aug. 31 notice of intent to schedule], DEA has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action," federal officials stated in a document set to be entered into the Federal Record on Thursday. "DEA is therefore taking the following actions: DEA is withdrawing the Aug. 31, 2016 notice of intent; and soliciting comments from the public regarding the scheduling of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine under the Controlled Substances Act." 

Speaking to the Washington Post ahead of the proposed listing, DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson said the amount of opposition to the ban "was eye-opening for me personally."

Public comment will be gathered on potential regulations for kratom until Thursday, Dec. 1. To submit comments online, go to regulations.gov and include reference to Docket No. DEA-442W. 
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