Bipartisan Group of Federal Lawmakers File “Landmark” Kratom Legislation

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On the heels of what looked to be a legislative setback for kratom, a group of bipartisan legislators is looking to codify support for the herb and force further study of how kratom affects its users. 

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, and in both houses of Congress, filed the text of a proposed Federal Clarity for Kratom Consumers Act this week as an attempt to not only protect the supplement from regulation, but also set out a public forum and proposed research infrastructure to understand how kratom fits in the wider spectrum of herbal supplements. In tandem with a press release distributed by the American Kratom Association (AKA), the voices behind the legislation made it clear: The proposed bill is about listening to their constituents. 

“I have heard countless stories of the benefits of kratom experienced by consumers across the country, including veterans, law enforcement officials, and everyday American who credit kratom with saving their lives,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, in the release. “This legislation that we introduced today will be life-changing for these Americans. The FDA needs to fulfill its duty to protect consumers, not abuse their powers in ways the Congress never intended.”

Lee is sponsoring the bill in the Senate alongside Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), while Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) is the sponsor behind the House’s version of the bill. The legislation comes in the wake of kratom protections being removed from the final version of Congressional appropriations measures, and if passed, will not only protect kratom from over-regulation, but will create a formalized process for investigating how kratom impacts users. 

“The introduction of this legislation is a landmark victory for kratom consumers across the country,” said Mac Haddow, Senior Fellow at the AKA. “We encourage the swift passage of this bill so that the millions of people who consume kratom every year will have these important protections in place.”

The proposed protections for kratom come in the wake of a back-and-forth between the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While the NIDA has encouraged more formal research and acknowledges kratom’s low-risk for serious reaction, the FDA issued a warning to consumers earlier this year and has issued official notices on the substance that have been referenced in lawsuits. 

If the bill is enacted, consumers would have protection from FDA overreach, with the bill explicitly forbidding any laws/regulation that is “more restrictive than the requirements for food, dietary supplements, and dietary ingredients that apply under The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.” Beyond that clause, the bill also calls for public hearings in the wake of any future administrative action and lays out specific conditions for which future import alerts can be issued. 

From a research standpoint, this bill would jump start federal research with a multi-pronged approach for moving kratom research forward. If approved, the bill would require public hearings within 90 days of enactment, and call for specific conditions per the legislation. In addition to the subject matter laid out by the bill, which includes public hearings on kratom’s addiction profile and deaths associated with kratom, the proposed law would require public input and calls for “input from leading scientific researchers on kratom and kratom-derived products.”

Those hearings would be followed by a formalized report that would come directly from the “Kratom Research Task Force” and would include all transcripts from hearings. Beyond the initial report, the bill calls for quarterly reports for a span of two years, and requires that the information be publicly available on the FDA’s website. 

The legislation would not impact legislative efforts on kratom at the state level, after advocates, alongside the AKA, achieved a similar landmark legislative victory in the form of a kratom regulation act that was signed into law earlier this year in Colorado. 

In short, the proposed federal legislation would formalize requests for further information, and stop the federal back-and-forth over kratom in favor of actual data and information to help lawmakers and consumers alike better understand the supplement. 

“(Kratom) doesn’t belong in our broken drug scheduling system,” said Rep. Pocan. “This legislation will prevent the criminalization of kratom consumers and distributors while promising scientific research is conducted.”

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