WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two letters from a bipartisan group of 11 U.S. Senators – including Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) – are urging the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to halt a proposed ban on the natural coffee-like herb kratom and to allow for expert and public input.
One letter was signed by 11 members of the U.S. Senate – Sanders, Hatch, Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Senator Wyden also signed a second letter along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
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. September 30th was the earliest date the ban could have gone into effect and there is no clear indication of how the DEA will now proceed.
The new U.S. Senate letters reflect growing concern about the hasty DEA campaign to ban kratom.
Last Monday (September 26th), a bipartisan group of 51 U.S. House 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 Friday (September 30th). A related letter by the Members of Congress also was 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 House 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.
The letter from Sanders Hatch and nine other Senators reads as follows: "The use of this emergency authority for a natural substance is unprecedented, so it is important to determine whether the circumstances here necessitate a jump to Schedule I."
"Congress has established a specific set of review protocols for scheduling decisions that will create significant disruption in the marketplace that allows for the full engagement of consumers, researchers, health professionals, law enforcement officials, and other stakeholders. Given the long reported history of Kratom use, coupled with the public's sentiment that it is a safe alternative to prescription opioids, we believe using the regular review process would provide for a much-needed discussion among all stakeholders. We understand the DEA's desire to uphold public health and safety, and we share the goal of seeing unsafe products removed from the market. However, hearing multiple perspectives allows for more fulsome decision-making."
The letter from the 11 Senators continues: "Given the extremely short timeframe for the implementation of the proposed DEA scheduling order, we urge you to take appropriate steps to delay the order to allow both for a public comment period and sufficient time for the DEA to outline its evidentiary standards to Congress regarding the justification for this proposed action."
The separate Wyden-Booker-Gillibrand Senate letter states: "We are concerned that the 30-day comment period for such a proposed regulatory action is not a sufficient amount of time for public comment on a drug that, according to recent scientific studies, may actually be an effective substance to help combat the opioid epidemic. While we understand there are times when public safety demands that your agency act quickly on scheduling decisions, we believe that in this instance additional time for the scientific community, public health officials, and other members of the public to comment is warranted and may prove to be in the interest of public health and safety.'
"As you know, Schedule I … is reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse and that have no currently accepted medical use. An increasing body of research has shown kratom' s potential value as a treatment for a number of conditions. On September 2, 2016, eleven scientists from well-respected research institutions in the U.S. wrote an open letter to Congress expressing "grave concern" about the agency's proposed action and expressed their opposition to any efforts to designate kratom as a Schedule I controlled substance of the CSA …"
"Given that we are in the midst of a drug crisis and there is promising evidence from the research of kratom's potential medical benefits, including the possibility of new, safer medications for the treatment of pain, we believe that placing kratom in Schedule I without adequate time for experts to weigh in via public comment may have unintended consequences."
"Furthermore, since 1980, our federal prison population has exploded by nearly 800 percent. This increase is a result of draconian drug policies that continue to place nonviolent drug offenders behind bars. We should not, in haste and without adequate opportunity for comment and analysis, place substances in categories that may be inconsistent with their medical value and potential for abuse."
This information brought to you by the American Kratom Association and the Botanical Education Alliance.
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SOURCE American Kratom Association; Botanical Education Alliance, Washington, D.C.