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Lobbyist Details Kratom Fight

Efforts to keep remedy off controlled substances list examined at Smoker Friendly conference
Photograph by CSP Staff

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Similar to the way nutritional supplements made their way into the market years ago and cannabidiol (CBD) products are maneuvering now, kratom—another type of natural, plant-based remedy—is navigating a variety of regulatory and legal hurdles to potentially make its way into convenience stores.

Much in the way hemp, a root material for CBD products, had to achieve legal status on the federal level, kratom had to avoid classification as a Schedule 1 drug (on par with heroin) in the eyes of the law, said Charles “Mac” Haddow, senior fellow on public policy for the American Kratom Association, Haymarket, Va.

Speaking at the 23rd annual Smoker Friendly conference and tobacco festival Aug. 23, Haddow said his lobbying effort on behalf of the kratom association included addressing multiple assertions in fall 2017 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that kratom led to at least 44 deaths worldwide. By asking for details on each case, Haddow said kratom lobbyists were able to debunk each instance, leading to further discussion over any potential ban on the product.

In one of those cited deaths, Haddow said the person drank tea with kratom but later died of two gunshot wounds. “This is not the way to do the public’s business,” Haddow told about 300 attendees during a morning general session.

But the FDA didn’t stop there. Before leaving the FDA this past spring, former commissioner Scott Gottlieb publicly connected kratom to opioids, which Haddow said created confusion. Haddow said that many substances interact with the body’s opioid receptors in the way Gottlieb claimed kratom did, including cheese. “That’s why cheese is so popular,” Haddow said.

Discussions involving potential bans on kratom or its components at the federal, state and local levels are ongoing, Haddow said.

Having had similar experiences with nutritional supplements as they made their way to market, Haddow said similar roadblocks exist for kratom, as well as CBD. Ultimately, he said, the main concerns are adulterated products and those supplied from the black market, pointing out that the best regulatory solutions protect the public health.

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