Now They're Trying to Ban... Kratom? [FEATURE]

The prohibitionist impulse is strong. When confronted with a newly encountered psychoactive substance, there are always special pleaders to sound the alarm and politicians willing to reflexively resort to the power of the ban. Whether it is something with serious potential dangers, like the "bath salts" drugs, or something much more innocuous, like khat, the mild stimulant from the Horn of Africa, doesn't seem to matter; the prohibitionist impulse is strong.

mitragyna speciosa (kratom) tree (photo by Gringobonk, courtesy Erowid.org)
Kratom is a substance that falls on the more innocuous side of the psychoactive spectrum. It is the leaves of the kratom tree, mitragyna speciosa, which is native to Thailand and Indonesia, where the leaves have been chewed or brewed into a tea and used for therapeutic and social purposes for years. According to the online repository of psychoactive knowledge, the Vaults of Erowid, kratom acts as both a mild stimulant and a mild sedative, creates feelings of empathy and euphoria, is useful for labor, and is relatively short-acting.

Of course, any psychoactive substance has its good and its bad sides, but kratom's downside doesn't seem very severe. Erowid lists its negatives as including a bitter taste, dizziness and nausea at higher doses, mild depression coming down, feeling hot and sweaty, and hangovers similar to alcohol. There is no mention of potential for addiction, and while fatal overdoses are theoretically possible, especially with its methanol and alkaloid extracts, in the real world, ODing on kratom doesn't appear to be an issue. No fatal overdoses are known to have actually occurred.

On the other hand, some of kratom's alkaloids bind to opioid receptors in the brain, making it an opioid agonist, and it is now being sold in the West and used to treat pain, depression, anxiety, and opiate withdrawal. Sold in smoke shops, herbal supplement emporia, and on the Internet, it is now apparently being lumped in with synthetic cannabinoids and the "bath salts" drugs by treatment professionals, law enforcement, and others who make a habit of searching for scary new drugs.

Kratom is not listed as a banned substance in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or its successor treaty, and has been banned in only a handful of countries, most ironically in Thailand itself. It was banned there in 1943, when then Thai government was taxing the opium trade and opium users were switching to kratom to aid in withdrawals and as a substitute.

Arrests for kratom possession have jumped in recent years, from more than 1,200 in 2005 to more than 7,000 in 2009, even though the Thai Office of the Narcotics Control Board recommended to the Justice Department in 2010 that it be decriminalized because of the lack of any perceivable social harms.

In the US, the DEA added kratom to its list of drugs of concern in 2010, although that doesn't mean that a federal ban is necessarily imminent. Salvia divinorum, for example, has been a drug of concern for more than a decade now, with no action taken. But while the feds haven't acted, there were efforts to ban kratom in several states in the US this year, although only Indiana actually succeeding in outlawing it. In Louisiana, age restrictions were placed on its purchase.

The experience of Iowa, where legislation to ban kratom is still pending, is illustrative of how bans are created. The Iowa effort happened after state Rep. Clel Baudler (R) heard about kratom on a radio program. Within two hours, he was moving to ban it.

"Kratom is a hallucinogen, addictive, and can be life threatening," he said at the time, in complete contradiction of all that is actually known about kratom.

It's not just states that are considering bans on kratom. Pinellas County, Florida, was about to enact one this week, but the prohibitionist bandwagon hit a bump in the road in the form of perennial drug war gadfly Randy Heine, owner of Rockin' Cards and Gifts in Pinellas Park, who told the Chronicle he had been selling kratom in his store since 1981.

Seeing what was coming down the pike, Heine alerted the Kratom Association, a group of users, producers, and vendors dedicated to keeping kratom legal, who flooded county commissioners with emails. He also addressed the commission itself.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/randy-heine-201px.jpg
Randy Heine
"I have been selling kratom for over 30 years out of my store on Park Blvd. I challenge anyone to find any problem originating from my store selling kratom," he wrote in a letter made available to the Chronicle. "Do not lump in synthetic chemicals with an organic plant material. This is like comparing apples to oranges. I would like to see kratom be sold only to persons over the age of 18, similar to the proposal being made in our sister state of Louisiana."

In the conservative county, Heine also appealed to the ghost of Ronald Reagan in his letter to commissioners. What riles up the Reagan in him, Heine wrote, is "growing the bureaucracy by creating another board to regulate what I and others do in privacy of our own homes."

"I got letters back from two of the commissioners," said Heine. "They read my Ronald Reagan letter out loud, and one of the GOP commissioners thanked me for sharing my thoughts. The commission has now deferred this item so we can take a closer look at the issues involved."

Many of his kratom customers are using it as an opiate substitute, he said.

"We have a drug rehab place here, and my feeling is that a lot of their clients are purchasing kratom instead of methadone. It's competition; I'm taking away money," he said. "Some of my customers say methadone is worse than heroin and keeps you addicted. Kratom weans them off heroin. A lot of them say they just do less and less kratom until the craving stops. I have a couple of senior women who say they're tired of taking prescription pills, that they make them nutty, and kratom works for them."

Chronicle readers may recall that Pinellas County is where a drug reform-minded upstart Democratic candidate for sheriff is taking on either the scandal-plagued Republican incumbent sheriff or his challenger and predecessor, former Sheriff Everett Rice (the GOP primary is next week), whose supporters on the council were pushing the kratom ban. That Democrat, Scott Swope, is so good on drug policy that his candidacy persuaded Heine to drop his own bid for the sheriff's office.

"This looks like another unconstitutional intrusion into the lives of Pinellas citizens who aren't harming anyone," Swope said. "I've researched kratom and although there doesn't seem to be as much research available as cannabis, it appears to me to be a plant product that should not be banned. I think the purchase or possession of any of these things (cannabis, kratom, bath salts) by minors should not be allowed. Adults, however, should be free to do what they want as long as they aren't harming anyone else."

While Heine is currently bedeviled by the effort to ban kratom, as well as an associated effort to force smoke shops to put large signs on their doors saying they sell drug paraphernalia, the Swope candidacy has him hoping for better times ahead. 

"Swope can win," he exulted. "We finally have a candidate who is talking about marijuana. Even the Republican candidates are now saying they wouldn't bust people for marijuana. When I was still a candidate, I went to many forums to talk about pot, and the media started asking these guys about it. Scott won't arrest people for personal use."

Whether it's relatively unknown substances like kratom or now familiar substances like marijuana, the battle lines are drawn in what is ultimately a culture war. On one hand, the forces of fear and authoritarianism; on the other, the forces of free inquiry and personal liberty. It's been a long war, and it isn't going to end anytime soon, but perhaps now there are hints that the correlation of forces is changing.

Stopping unnecessary prohibitions before they get started is part of the struggle; undoing entrenched prohibitions with powerful interests behind them is another part of the struggle, but even though the substances are different, it's the same struggle.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Pinellas County
FL
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Pain relief

Kratom once saved me thousands in ER bills by allowing me to treat a hyper-extended quadricep without an uninsured trip to the ER to get synthetic opiods.  I had some Kratom in the fridge, and it knocked the pain down long enough to let me stay in bed and heal.

I suffer from chronic pain

I suffer from chronic pain and was dependent on opiods for years. I was able to switch to a very low dose of Kratom and I have not had to use opiods since. I was hoping this day wouldn't come but now I'm going to have to buy a few bulk orders and cryovac them just incase. Thanks America for trying to push me back to opiate addiction.

"It's the TAXES, stupid!"

 

"It (kratom) was banned there in 1943, when then Thai government was taxing the opium trade and opium users were switching to kratom to aid in withdrawals and as a substitute."

That is eerily similar to something else currently going on... oh, yes, the banning of marijuana while US federal, state and local governments are raking in over $30 billion a year on-- $igarette taxes!

Surely our officials and legislators understand-- though they never say so-- that marijuana might aid some (millions of?) $igarette addicts in "withdrawals (from $igarette addiction) and as a substitute (for tobacco)"?

As Heine points out in the article, there's a "drug rehab place" nearby, making $$ money off methadone (reportedly an inferior substitute for kratom).  Parallel?

Mr. Swope sounds sincere, but I note he is proposing "fines" for possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis.  Please suggest to Scott that what that amounts to is imposing a high tax* on cannabis-- with a casino element, you might or might not get caught with the paught-- making cannabis EVEN MORE UNCOMPETITIVE PRICEWISE with $igarette tobacco, driving some youngsters who feel a social or emotional need to smoke INTO THE ARMS OF NICOTINE ADDICTION.  Because the latter afflicts the less educated, lower-income classes more, WE TAXPAYER will cover the costs-- I have seen estimates that $igarette addiction costs the US economy $200 billion a year.  (But the best paid lobbyists on earth are in there schmoozing with your Congressman to keep taking the $30-bil pill for bizness as usual).

Price differential: two packs of (40) $igarettes, 28 grams, under $20 in almost every state; an ounce (28.35 grams) of cannabis, $200 and up.   And Swope, like the mayors of New York and Chicago, would effectively RAISE the cannabis price compared to addictive tobacco.  Think. 

___________________________________

*Justice Roberts has cast his deciding vote to consider the "penalty" for failing to purchase health insurance a TAX, may I suggest we similarly name this proposed "marijuana possession penalty" a TAX, a huge one compared to $igarettes where tax proponents righteously argue the tax is used as a way to reduce consumption.  Oh yes, that high price of cannabis is itself due to the huge law enforcement threat raising the costs of shipping and marketing the product-- also effectively a TAX.  Why are they trying ten times as hard to reduce cannabis consumption as tobacco consumption?   (And is someone afraid kratom might also replace not only methadone but tobacco??)

Are you insane?

Drugs are not addictive and addiction is used to hide mischievous behaviors? Okay, while I admit when going out boozing, you do some crazy stuff like sleep around and get into fights, but I don't at all think thats the reason people use (at least elusively).  Alcohol lowers your inhibitions so you have trouble saying no and making good decisions, and in turn, act like a degenerate. I believe the reason people use, at least most people I knew, was to self medicate because they were unhappy, depressed, bipolar, ADHD, PTSD, etc...etc...etc... But things like benzo's, opiates/opioids, and alcohol are certainly addictive (stimulants without phsyical addition are nothing compared to the latter listed drugs).  I was addicted to heroin and then to Methadone for years.  And though I may not have always had the compulsion to use, if I stopped, I'd get violently ill & be in excrutiating pain.  When I detoxed off methadone I slowly reduced my dose over 7 weeks and was still sick; diarrhea (with blood), unbelievable insomnia (didn't sleep right for months), unrelenting panic, sweating, pain, restless legs, the list goes on and on.  I lost 30 pounds before I started to come back to life due to the fact that I couldn't eat anything.  I had to basically chew water just to get it down.  And with both benzos (xanax, valium, klonopin, etc...) and alcohol, you can literally die from withdrawals.  If that's not addiction, I don't know what is.  Or maybe you consider that physical dependence and not addition, I don't know.  But I agree, I wasn't always compelled to use, I was just so afraid of getting sick that I did everything I could to stay high.  But at times, i was certainly very compelled to use, mostly when I was drunk though.  That seemed to really bring out the need for reward.  In any case, I now use kratom and have been drug free for more than 2 years now after spending more than 6 on hard opiates.  My life is much better, I'm much happier, I have a much better job where I make more than 2X as much money, I no longer engage with criminals, and I take care of my business whereas before I did not, even when on methadone maintenance (methadone caused a heart condition in me called prolonged qt.  It stopped my heart and I now have an implanted defibrillator and I'm 30). If Kratom is banned, I will be SOL and will be back to the streets or the clinic and will most likely die.  I certainly don't want that to happen. 

wanted to add -

I also want to add that even if something is addictive, I do not think that is any reason to ban it.  I think all drugs should be legal, and regulated.  Mainly because I agree with this sheriff in that the gov't doesn't have any right to tell us what we can and can't do to ourselves and in our own home; if we're not hurting anyone other than ourselves, its nobody's damn business.  Plus the vast majority of problems stemming from drugs are directly related to their prohibition and legalizing and regulating all drugs would solve many more problems than their prohibition.  Prohibition has, and always will be a total failure, and a massive violation of our civil liberties.

please read

 hello, my name is crystal n i have some questions for you. i was reading ur comment n i know someone special who is on methadone for the second time. the first time the person in the end of almost three years was made to leave the clinic do to money issues and a sever loss that caused this person to fall of the edge n enter depression. now back on methadone do to mistakes n long life battle with a demon i was wondering if you could e-mail me some more details on how this new (new to me) method can work. i would need to know as much as possible. the good n the bad. 

 

thank you 

Banning is all that legislatures do

The problem is that legislatures know only how to ban things.  In fact, banning things is the essence of any legislature's existence.  There are rarely ever times that legislatures expand our rights, or repeal bad laws. No. Once a law gets passed, it stays forever.  Then, fifty more laws get piled on top of that.  Substances, or any other perceived "bad" item/activity for that matter, is able to realize a ban in a year or two, but it takes DECADES to make it legal again (e.g. marijuana) when the public realizes the ban was originally a mistake in some cases.

The laws that "ban everything" simply mount and mount and mount and NEVER sunset or face repeal.  Its like the governments can't exist unless they are passing laws against the general public 100% of the time.  I love my government, but I think more liberty-minded approaches should be explored.

I love my country, but I hate

I love my country, but I hate my government.

Invasion of the Know-Nothings

People such as Rep. Clel Baudler (R), who know nothing about drugs or much of anything else it would seem, are usually in the forefront of prohibition.  The know-nothings react to common herbal remedies like kratom as if it were a snake making a noise in the grass.  It’s a basic fright or flight reaction.  People who take the time to know a few things, Sheriff's Candidate Scott Swope in particular, will investigate the noise to see if it really is a snake, or one that’s poisonous.

People who make it their business to know a few things will further observe the snake and test its venom to determine if either could be useful for something.  As it turns out, snake venom and its chemical analogues are incredibly useful in medicine and research.  Knowledge derived from snake venom chemistry has saved many lives.   

So in terms of evolution, survival of the fittest and all that, on the savannah, or in the rural or urban setting, the question is: which group survives?

Will it be the know nothings, the intellectually lazy who bolt at strange noises and sit in caves all day picking lice out of their hair?  Or is knowledge the ultimate tool of adaptability and survival?

There can be no doubt that prohibitionists are among the un-evolved, or maybe the devolved. 

Marijuana, it’s not just about drugs anymore.

Giordano

The Kratom Leaves are beneficial to people's health...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kratom  

 

Kratom has recently become more known and used in Europe and North America where it has been used for its applications to treat or aid in many conditions and ailments, such as pain, depression, anxiety, and opiate withdrawal. Just recently, Kratom has been found to also Lower Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Blood Sugar, and also helps your immune system with its antioxidant/antiviral properties.

Comment: I guess "Kratom Leaves " might divert people to use natural substances as a new way of Life...!!; for example Drinking black tea (costs about 5c if you buy the teabags); "lowers Cortisol and increases Gaba (Gaba is what Lunesta is made from and you can get Gaba for 5c...health hint: Oolong Tea has highest Gaba for "relaxation !!

Lord knows

We certainly don't need anything that can be an opiate agonist.Especially one that has no addictive property's.Where's the fun in that?I have stopped wondering why there's this knee jerk reflex amongst the prohibition people in the US.It's just there and they've long ago quit trying to even justify their actions.It's like a disease and there seems to be no cure for these people.Even with the stats out of Portugal showing a reduction among the youth of all drug use.The prohibition people just stand back and insist that that couldn't happen here?They never explain why.They never explain anything.Statistics,although they are easily manipulated and can be used to show almost anything,have shown that if anything,drug use has exploded under prohibition.Even that doesn't discourage these people.In Europe,they have legalised,or at least decriminalised heroin and begun programs but only Portugal has taken the step towards a complete decriminalisation of all drugs.The heroin addiction rates in these countries have stabilised and in some cases been reduced.Of course that can't happen here either?The perpensity to ban any and everything that comes along is just a part of a larger strategy that is the same old prison and punishment programs that have more Americans in prison per population than any country in the free world.Worse than South Africa under apartheid.I guess that has created a huge infrastructure that has now dug in and will fight to the death to keep their cash flow.Even though it does nothing to solve anything and destroys more lives than any drug in history.

I'm the direct opposite of

I'm the direct opposite of prohibitionist and think all drugs should be legal, including kratom.  I've used it extensively in the past, both to get high as well as to suspend withdrawal from opiates.  It's a fantastic and underrated compound, which provides a smooth caffeine-like invigoration (it is in the coffee family, after all) in conjunction with it's opiod activity, and is all around quite euphoric and uplifting (unless you have a considerable opiate tolerance, in which case it only provides the stimulant effect and helps to stave off withdrawals).  It is an excellent resource for addicts looking to taper their dependence, and is fairly self limiting as a recreational drug in that if you do kratom every day, after about a week the euphoria quickly diminishes; this tolerance issue also happens with opiates of course, but with kratom the high seems to drop off much quicker, and won't come back until you take a break from it.  All that said, one thing I would like to correct is the impression that kratom is not addictive, and physically at that.  It's not quite as addictive as the strong opiates, but there are kratom junkies who do go through withdrawal when they run out.  A lot of addicts use kratom to get them off harder narcotics and end up dependent on the kratom.  It's hard to imagine any compound that would have significant agonist activity at the opiate receptors that would not result to some extent in physical dependancy.  To be fair, one can use kratom extensively without ever getting hooked if it is used at intervals.  To become a kratom addict takes long periods of consistent, dedicated use.  An opiate naive person using kratom would have to use it every day for over a month to get even the mildest addiction, whereas an opiate addict switching to kratom is switching one addiction for a more benign and easier to quit version of essentially the same addiction.  None of this is meant to be an argument to ban kratom, of course, but I do feel that erroneously stating that it doesn't cause addiction is a little dangerous.  The benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks and I hope it remains under the radar as it were as long as possible.  

Only the educated suffer from other's ignorance.

A study should be started now on people who no longer depend on the pharmaceutical trap that people got away from thanks to Kratom, so that when or if it gets banned these ignorant ass politicians can see how many citizens had to resort back to addiction. It makes me sick to know that people are allowed to ban substances that have been utilized successfully for thousands of years without doing a bit of research. Keep Kratom legal and let people live their productive lives how they would like.

a petition

http://www.Keepingkratomlegal.com has a petition going. Sign it and save Kratom in your area!

sign the petition

IF the governemnt bans kratom

IF the governemnt bans kratom alot and I mean alot of people r going to be in pain again. Wyy the fuck do u government want to taje r freedom and our health from us all. Why so u can trap peoole in your methadone clinics? U government dont really give a dhit about ur people all you care about is money and your business so you can live the dream while others suffer. U people can take your pharmacy drugs and shove them up your ass.

HIGH POWERED KRATOM

DONT GET BURNT GET SMOKED!

KamaKazi Kratom 30 GRAMS $15.95 + FREE SHIPPING

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Its People like You with your

Its People like You with your high powered kratom BS  thats got kratom on the ropes and about to be banned!

ANd you have the nerve to put your adverisement HERE of all places!

Too far

The level of paranoia experienced by the DEA must be overwhelming, considering that drug addiction rates have only increased over the last 60 year, despite the fed pouring billions of dollars into the program. Kratom is far from a dangerous drug, and both the FDA and the DEA are scheming.

-Cody from http://ensobotanicals.com

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