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Kratom Unites Congress

October 23, 2023

Bipartisan agreementIn today’s extremely polarized political landscape, it’s impossible to find bipartisan agreement on anything…except, apparently, on kratom.

The obvious need for federal kratom regulation led conservative Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and liberal Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to join together last year on legislation that would help keep kratom legal, accessible, and safe for the entire country. While that bill ultimately did not advance, Senator Lee is now trying again.

Earlier this month, Lee introduced the Federal Kratom Consumer Protection Act (KCPA), with Senator Booker expected to sign on again as a cosponsor. The House of Representatives has also renewed their companion legislation in a bipartisan manner, with Reps. Marc Pocan (D-WI) and Jack Bergman (R-MI) sponsoring the House bill.

They may not see eye to eye on anything else, but kratom regulation is such a straightforward issue that both parties are remarkably willing to unite to do the right thing.

Keeping Kratom Accessible

The official title of S.3039 and H.R.5905 is “A bill to protect access to kratom.”

That title alone is exactly what kratom advocates have been asking for all along. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unsuccessfully attempted to ban kratom in the past, thwarted by massive public backlash as well as a lack of scientific evidence or political support.

But consumers know that the FDA is still targeting kratom, and they want official legislation to secure their rights to this natural product that they rely on for their well-being. While 11 states have passed their own versions of the KCPA, a federal solution is clearly necessary.

What’s in the Federal KCPA?

One of the main criticisms of the FDA’s crusade against kratom has been their failure to rely on scientific facts about the safety of kratom, instead pushing misinformation or incomplete narratives. Kratom has been proven safe through multiple research studies, but often the science gets ignored.

This bill aims to change that.

Public Comments and Hearing

Public CommentsOnce the KCPA becomes federal law, the clock starts ticking on several requirements included in the bill.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will have 30 days to open a public docket for the submission of public comments for a period of at least 30 days prior to a required hearing. This hearing must take place within 30-90 days of the enactment date, and it must be an open forum that includes leading kratom scientific researchers. Transcripts from all hearings must be posted to the FDA’s website.

The bill even spells out the following specific topics that must be considered during the hearing:

  • Number of U.S. kratom consumers
  • Kratom dependence or addiction data
  • Cause of deaths associated with kratom, including details about other substances used by the deceased alongside kratom and/or any contaminated or adulterated kratom products involved
  • Whether kratom leads to the use of other dangerous substances
  • Expected adverse health impacts if kratom is not accessible
  • Potential health benefits of kratom

Kratom Research Task Force

Task Force magnifying glassHHS will also have 30 days to convene a Kratom Research Task Force. This task force will be required to:

  • Submit an initial report within 90 days of the enactment date detailing all federally funded kratom research
  • Submit subsequent quarterly progress reports, including an analysis of the research results
  • Convene public meetings that include experts to discuss the current state of kratom research
  • Publish all reports on the FDA’s website
  • Terminate itself after 2 years from the initial report date

Regulation Protections

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) regulates the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of—you guessed it!—food, drugs, and cosmetics. Dietary supplements are also regulated under an amendment to the FD&C Act called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

The FDA does not consider kratom a dietary supplement as defined by DSHEA. This semantic loophole has enabled them to follow a different, less clear set of rules for kratom.

However, this new legislation would prohibit the FDA from:

  • Imposing more restrictive requirements on kratom products than those that apply to food, dietary supplements, or dietary ingredients under the FD&C Act
  • Treating kratom as an adulterated dietary supplement
  • Requiring kratom to follow the rules for notification as a new dietary ingredient
  • Making any rules related to kratom without following formal rulemaking requirements or holding public, in-person hearings
  • Issuing import alerts without proper justification

Bottom Line

Questions about kratom’s health risks or benefits should be answered by scientists, not bureaucrats. And policy decisions should be based on those facts, not politics.

Even Democrats and Republicans can agree on that.

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