Moving kratom to Schedule I effectively puts it in the same category as heroin and (still!) marijuana. Tens of thousands of users will become criminals overnight as early as September 30th, despite the fact that no one put it to a vote and (as far as we know) no politician was swept into office on the promise of ending the kratom scourge.
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"I know Kratom. Bad country. Evil people. Bomb them. Big scourge, yuge scourge."
But Congress has granted the DEA the power to fight drug abuse in America without needing approval for each and every decision -- nobody has to pass a separate law to declare a substance illegal. It's probably not surprising that the DEA spokesman I interviewed, Russ Baer, felt this was perfectly reasonable: "[W]e know that kratom meets the statistical criteria of a Schedule I substance ... there may be ongoing [medical] studies, there may be promising results, but those studies are inadequate at this point. We know that the consumption of kratom individually or with other drugs ... is a serious concern. So the DEA has an obligation to promote and protect the public safety."
Russ also stressed that this was a "temporary" scheduling. The DEA is banning kratom for two years so they can evaluate whether or not it should be banned forever. On one hand, there are examples like the club drug TFMPP -- its 2002 ban was in fact allowed to expire in 2004. On the other hand, we have marijuana, which was recently denied rescheduling once again. We're coming up on 80 years with that one.
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Another one of their mandates is to prevent any more Cheech & Chong movies.
At this point, you are likely assuming that there must have been some wave of hospitalizations/deaths related to kratom which forced the government's hand. Or maybe a celebrity OD'd on it? Well ...