DEA Drops Ban on Herbal Supplement Kratom – By Alicia A. Caldwell, STAT on October 12, 2016

The agency faced a fierce backlash from users who call the plant a safer alternative to opioid painkillers

Kratom pills. Credit: JOE RAEDLE, Getty Images

Kratom pills. Credit: JOE RAEDLE, Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration has reversed a plan to temporarily ban a plant that some users suggest could be an alternative to powerful and addictive opioid painkillers.

In a notice set to be published Thursday in the Federal Register, the agency said it was withdrawing its plan to add two psychoactive components of the plant, known as kratom, to the list of the most dangerous drugs.

Advocates urging the DEA to leave kratom off its list of controlled substance have argued that it can be used as a nonaddictive painkiller or can help wean people off other, addictive pain medications. Some lawmakers also complained that the DEA wasn’t being transparent in its effort to ban the plant.

Adding kratom to the DEA’s list of schedule 1 drugs would define the plant as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

In a letter to the DEA last month, the American Kratom Association said the agency was being overly aggressive in categorizing kratom with other dangerous and highly addictive drugs, including a variety of synthetic drug compounds including synthetic marijuana and “bath salts.”

The association and the Botanical Education Alliance applauded the DEA’s reversal.

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The DEA Is About to Make Life Even More Dangerous for Heroin Users – By Maia Szalavitz September 26, 2016

As opioid overdoses continue to skyrocket across America, many chronic pain patients and people with addiction are seeking safer ways to cope. Too bad the feds—with a broken system for scheduling drugs of all kinds—are standing in the way.

In this photo illustration, capsules of the herbal supplement Kratom are seen on May 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In this photo illustration, capsules of the herbal supplement Kratom are seen on May 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As opioid overdoses continue to skyrocket across America, many chronic pain patients and people with addiction are seeking safer ways to cope. Too bad the feds—with a broken system for scheduling drugs of all kinds—are standing in the way.

In August, the Drug Enforcement Administration refused to move marijuana out of its most restricted category of drugs, Schedule I. And at the tail-end of that month, the agency announced plans to add Kratom—a South Asian herbal remedy that is frequently used to treat both chronic pain and addiction—to the same list. The ban could start as early as September 30, and is expected to last at least two years.

Substances included in Schedule I are said to have both a high potential for abuse and “no currently accepted medical use,” and sales and possession are illegal. While some medical research can still be conducted, the bureaucratic process involved is both expensive and time-consuming, creating a catch-22 that makes “no currently accepted medical use” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“I don’t know of any instance of them reversing themselves, “Jag Davies, director of communications strategy for the Drug Policy Alliance, told me of the government and scheduling decisions. Forty-five members of Congress have written the DEA and federal officials asking them to delay the move.

Meanwhile, data favoring both marijuana and Kratom as pain-relieving alternatives to drugs like Oxycontin and heroin continues to build. First, weed: The most recent study, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, found a 50 percent reduction in the number of drivers aged 21 through 40 involved in fatal car accidents who tested positive for opioids in medical marijuana states. A 2014 study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found a 25 percent reduction in the opioid overdose death rate in states that legalized medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010, a reduction that grew over the years after the state legalized. A Rand Corporation study bolstered the apparent link between greater marijuana access and reduced opioid-related deaths, while a study of Medicare claims found that spending on pain medication fell by $165.2 million in medical marijuana states.

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High hopes get dashed: The feds reject legalizing marijuana — and take a small step in the right direction –

The DEA’s decision to keep marijuana on the list of Schedule 1 drugs is a setback, but there’s some good news VIDEO

High hopes get dashed: The feds reject legalizing marijuana — and take a small step in the right direction

Several months ago, two former Democratic governors filed petitions asking the DEA to strip marijuana of its Schedule 1 status and reclassify it as a drug with known medicinal uses. Schedule 1 narcotics (LSD and heroin, for example) are considered the most dangerous. Such a classification implies two things: that a drug has a high potential for abuse and that it has no medical value. Not a shred of evidence suggests marijuana is more harmful than alcohol or tobacco, to say nothing of opioids, which are Schedule 2 drugs. And it’s preposterous to claim marijuana has a higher potential for abuse than OTC drugs or virtually any of the controlled substances regulated by the government.

In any case, the DEA released its report this week and reform advocates hoped, among other things, that they would reschedule marijuana. They refused to do so, however, and the justificatory logic was both familiar and false. The DEA won’t say that marijuana is as dangerous as LSD or heroin, but they continue to claim it has no medical value – or, more precisely, that we don’t have conclusive evidence to that effect. First, that’s untrue. As Dr. Mark Alain Dery, director of the Baton Rouge Medical Center’s Tulane T-Cell Clinic, told me nearly two years ago, “there is no question that marijuana is an effective and viable treatment option.” “The benefits are as clear as can be,” he added.

The other problem is that reason researchers have found it difficult to satisfy the government’s evidence threshold precisely because the drug remains Schedule 1, and thus there are numerous restrictions and mountains of red tape to scale. It’s absurd for the government to reproach researchers for failing to produce a sufficient amount of evidence while simultaneously limiting the amount of research they can conduct.

Furthermore, the research that is allowed or incentivized has been needlessly constrained. I spoke with David Brown, an attorney and drug law reform lobbyist who serves as president of the advocacy group Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana (SMPL). Brown says “The catch-22 has always been that the federal government only funds research into the alleged harms of Cannabis and by maintaining the bizarre Schedule 1 status, ensures that next to no research can be undertaken that would provide the necessary peer-reviewed scientific counterpoint.” This will have to change in order to push the science forward.

If You Go Near the Super Bowl, You Will Be Surveilled Hard – APRIL GLASER. 01.31.16. 7:00 AM

Super Bowl 50 will be big in every way. A hundred million people will watch the game on TV. Over the next ten days, 1 million people are expected to descend on the San Francisco Bay Area for the festivities. And, according to the FBI, 60 federal, state, and local agencies are working together to coordinate surveillance and security at what is the biggest national security event of the year.

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency coordinating the Herculean effort, classifies every Super Bowl as a special event assignment rating (SEAR) 1 event, with the exception of the 2002 Super Bowl, which got the highest ranking because it followed the September 11 terror attacks—an assignment usually reserved for only the Presidential Inauguration. A who’s-who of agencies, ranging from the DEA and TSA to the US Secret Service to state and local law enforcement and even the Coast Guard has spent more than two years planning for the event.

All of which means that if you’re attending the game, or just happen to be in the general vicinity of the myriad events leading up to the Super Bowl, you will be watched. Closely. The festivities started Saturday and run through February 7, when the Carolina Panthers meet the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Here’s a sampling of the technology Big Brother can use to surveil you during the Super Bowl in the Bay Area.

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Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp – By JAMES HIGDON March 02, 2015

How the Kentucky senator picked a fight with the DEA and became one of Washington’s top drug policy reformers.


Last May, a shipment of 250 pounds of hemp seeds left Italy destined for Kentucky as part of a pilot project made legal by the 2013 federal farm bill. Kentucky farmers had long hoped for a crop that could fill the void left by the decline of tobacco, and many thought that industrial hemp, which is used in a vast array of products, could be that crop.

The hemp seeds cleared customs in Chicago, but when the cargo landed at the UPS wing of Louisville International Airport, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized it, arguing that importing hemp seeds required an import permit, which could take six months to process. If farmers couldn’t get those seeds into the ground by June 1, the entire first year of the hemp pilot program would be dashed.

The DEA would have succeeded in blocking the seeds from reaching Kentucky farmers and university researchers but for the efforts of the state’s agricultural commissioner, who sued the agency and, most improbably, Mitch McConnell.

McConnell—then the Senate’s minority leader—worked furiously to free the seeds from the DEA’s clutches and continued the pro-hemp drumbeat throughout 2014, as he campaigned for reelection. This year, as Senate majority leader, he’s taken a further step by co-sponsoring the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015. While the farm bill carved out an exception to allow hemp cultivation in Kentucky, the 2015 bill would remove hemp entirely from the list of drugs strictly regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. It would, in essence, legalize hemp production in the United States

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