51 U.S. House Members Urges DEA To Delay "Hasty" Ban On Natural Herbal Supplement Kratom

51 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) urging the federal agency to halt an emergency push to ban the coffee-related herb kratom by as early as tomorrow. A related letter by the 51 U.S. House Members also has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Organized by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), the DEA and OMB letters were signed by 28 Democrats and 23 Republicans, including two medical doctors serving in Congress. The signers represent Congressional Districts in 25 states, including California, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New York state, and Texas. On August 31, the Drug Enforcement Agency published a "notice of intent" in the Federal Register stating its plan to list the natural herb kratom as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive category, alongside heroin and LSD, effective September 30th with no opportunity for a public comment period.

In their "Dear Colleague" letter, Pocan and Salmon explained to other House members that the DEA should be encouraging "more research into the natural supplement, kratom. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is made from the leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia and a relative of the coffee plant. Kratom leaves are often brewed like a tea, or crushed and mixed with water. In the U.S., kratom has become popular among people coping with chronic pain and others trying to wean themselves off opioids or alcohol."

According to Pocan and Salmon: "The National Institutes of Health has funded a joint study conducted by the University of Massachusetts and the University of Mississippi to investigate the use of kratom as a remedy for opioid withdrawal. This study led the researchers to apply for a patent identifying the kratom extract, mitragynine, as a useful treatment for other addictive drugs besides opiate derivatives. The DEA's decision to place kratom as a Schedule I substance will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions—a significant public health threat."

The letters from U.S. House Members asks Shaun Donovan, director of OMB, and Charles P. Rosenberg, acting director of the DEA, to delay a final decision on the placement of kratom on Schedule I, provide ample time for public comment on this significant decision, and resolve any inconsistencies with other federal agencies regarding the use of kratom.

The letter to DEA's Rosenberg notes: "This significant regulatory action was done without any opportunity for public comment from researchers, consumers, and other stakeholders. This hasty decision could have serious effects on consumer access and choice of an internationally recognized herbal supplement. We urge the DEA to delay finalizing the decision to define kratom as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act and to engage consumers, researchers, and other stakeholders, in keeping with well-established protocol for such matters. A departure from such guidelines threatens the transparency of the scheduling process and its responsiveness to the input of both citizens and the scientific community."

The letter to OMB's Donovan points out: "The DEA published their notice of intent in the Federal Register on August 31, 2016, only 30 days before they plan to finalize this decision to place this substance in the most restrictive classification … The Agency did not provide any public comment process for this significant regulatory decision, which will restrict consumer choice and access to the internationally recognized herbal product. We believe the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), under your jurisdiction, must utilize its statutory authority to manage and oversee this specific regulatory action to ensure the DEA is not violating federal law."

The full list of U.S. House Democrats signing the DEA/OMB letters consists of the following:Barbara Lee - CA-13Jim Costa - CA-16Michael M. Honda - CA-17Zoe Lofgren - CA-19Julia Brownley - CA-26Scott Peters - CA-52Jared Polis - CO-02Lois Frankel - FL-22Hank Johnson - GA-04Tulsi Gabbard - HI-02John Yarmuth - KS-03Michael Capuano - MA-07John Conyers - MI-13Betty McCollum - MN-04Keith Ellison - MN-05Steve Israel - NY-03Tim Ryan - OH-13Susanne Bonamici - OR-01Earl Blumenauer - OR-03Peter DeFazio - OR-04Steve Cohen - TN-09Robert C. "Bobby" Scott - VA-03Gerald Connolly - VA-11Susan DelBene - WA-01Adam Smith - WA-09Denny Heck - WA-10Gwen Moore - WI-04Mark Pocan - WI-02

The full list of U.S. House Republicans signing the DEA/OMB letters consists of the following:Paul Gosar - AZ-04Matt Salmon - AZ-05Dana Rohrabacher - CA-48Scott Tipton - CO-03Barry Loudermilk - GA-11Tom Graves - GA-14Steve King - IA-04Raul Labrador - ID-01Thomas Massie - KS-04Dan Benishek, M.D. - MI-01Justin Amash - MI-03Tom Emmer - MN-06Walter Jones - NC-3Richard Hudson - NC-08Frank LoBiondo - NJ-02Leonard Lance - NJ-07Joe Heck, D.O. - NV-03Brad Wenstrup, M.D. - OH-02Mark Sanford - SC-01Mick Mulvaney - SC-05Ted Poe - TX-01Dave Brat - VA-07Morgan Griffith - VA-09