Kratom was on the DEA’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern for several years. On August 31, 2016, the DEA published a notice that it was planning to place kratom in Schedule I, the most restrictive classification of the Controlled Substances Act. Its two primary active ingredients, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG), would be temporarily placed onto Schedule I on September 30, according to a filing by the DEA. The DEA reasoning was “to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety. The DEA did not solicit public comments on this federal rule, as is normally done.
However, the scheduling of kratom did not occur on September 30th, 2016. Dozens of members of Congress, as well as researchers and kratom advocates have expressed an outcry over the scheduling of kratom and the lack of public commenting. The DEA withheld scheduling at that time and opened the docket for public comments.
Over 23,000 public comments were collected before the closing date of December 1, 2016, according to the American Kratom Association. The American Kratom Association is a lobbying and advocacy group in support of kratom use. The American Kratom Association reports that there are a “number of misconceptions, misunderstandings and lies floating around about Kratom.”
As reported by the Washington Post in December 2016, Jack Henningfield, an addiction specialist from Johns Hopkins University and Vice President, Research, Health Policy, and Abuse Liability at Pinney Associates, was contracted by the American Kratom Association to research the kratom’s effects. In Henningfield’s 127 page report he suggested that kratom should be regulated as a natural supplement, such as St. Johns Wort or Valerian, under the FDA’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The American Kratom Association then submitted this report to the DEA during the public comment period.
Next steps include review by the DEA of the public comments in the kratom docket, review of recommendations from the FDA on scheduling, and determination of additional analysis. Possible outcomes could include emergency scheduling and immediate placement of kratom into the most restrictive Schedule I; routine DEA scheduling in schedule 2 through 5 with more public commenting; or no scheduling at all. The timing for the determination of any of these events is unknown.
State laws have banned kratom use in several states including, Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Vermont, Arkansas, Alabama and the District of Columbia. These states classify kratom as a schedule I substance. Kratom is also noted as being banned in Sarasota County, Florida, San Diego County, California, and Denver, Colorado. The FDA’s analysis from February 2018 included 44 reported deaths associated with the use of kratom. According to Governing.com, legislation was considered last year in at least six other states — Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina.