A opened envelope with paper inside that reads "No kratom ban!"

United States HHS Withdraws Intent to Ban Kratom Nationwide

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has withdrawn an intention to ban kratom across all states.

However, HHS didn’t announce the news publically. Instead, it was revealed by American Kratom Association (AKA), a pro-kratom consumer rights organization, who released correspondence pertaining to the decision.

The letter, seemingly dated August 16th, 2018, was sent by Brett P. Giroir, a former assistant secretary of the HHS, to Uttam Dhillon, Acting Administrator of the DEA. In it, Giroir stated that banning kratom’s primary alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine would be a “… potentially substantial risk to public health.” Giroir also called for “further research” to “better inform any subsequent scheduling decision.”

The American Kratom Association broke the news on Thursday, January 28th, 2021, during a public webinar. The webinar’s attendees included AKA representatives Mac Haddow and Pete Candland, as well as Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan and researcher Jack Henningfield.

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan commented on the letter during the webinar, describing it as “great news.” “It’s things that we’ve been saying for eight years, both in congress and obviously, people who are on this call today.” He hopes that the letter will spur state legislators to follow the science and prevent future kratom bans.

Jack Henningfield of PinneyAssociates later agreed. He noted that state officials, other countries, and health providers have been hesitant to work with and study kratom due to the FDA’s position that kratom is a “deadly addictive narcotic-like opioid.”

For Mac Haddow, the AKA’s Senior Fellow on Public Policy, the letter isn’t just good news: it’s unprecedented. “Based on all the research I’ve been able to find, this is the first time the HHS has rescinded such a recommendation,” Haddow noted. He partially attributed the HHS’s decision to Mark Pocan’s “diligent efforts on behalf of the kratom consumers in America.” But Haddow also took time to thank the passionate American kratom users who have publically defended the plant. One such user, “Kerry,” joined the call to share how kratom had helped her combat various health conditions and deal with life’s stressors.

Now that the HHS has withdrawn their scheduling intent, Haddow believes the AKA can focus on “what needs to come next.” His priority? Identifying how kratom can better serve kratom consumers — particularly during a time of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed widespread isolation and opioid misuse upon millions of Americans. But Haddow argued that “… kratom is a lifeline —  if it were available.” As proof, Haddow pointed to a peer-reviewed Johns Hopkins study, wherein 87% of kratom users experienced a decrease in opioid withdrawal symptoms, and 35% were opioid-free within a year.

However, Haddow stressed that while kratom has benefits, American kratom consumers won’t benefit from unsafe kratom products. And while the AKA is seeing fewer adulterated products on the market, the organization’s efforts to promote sensible regulation are far from over. Holding up a bag of untested kratom he purchased from an Indonesian seller, Haddow proclaimed that such unregulated kratom products “… will be the death of the kratom industry.”

“We’ve got to commit ourselves to good manufacturing practices, good processes, training of employees, making sure the finished products are properly packaged, … tested for all of these contaminants, that they’re not adulterated, and that they’re labelled properly and we restrict them from sale to minors,” Haddow said. “That’s our challenge … we’ve got to be adults about this and come to the table as responsible consumers and tell the FDA that we’ll partner with them in making sure that we eradicate the adulterated and contaminated products on the marketplace.”