After announcing the decision to ban kratom in August, the Drug Enforcement Administration has decided to withdraw intent to classify the plant as a Schedule I drug on Thursday, according to reports. Instead, the DEA is giving the public the opportunity to comment on the drug. This is the first time agency has delayed a ban to allow the public to comment.
The agency’s decision to withdraw intent comes after the DEA received complaints from thousands of callers outraged over the department’s intent to schedule kratom. Many of the people who have been protesting the DEA’s intent to ban the plant have actually benefitted from the drug and have been able to recover from alcohol, heroin and opioid addiction because of kratom. Due to the overwhelming number of protests, the DEA said the agency is “continuing debate within the scientific community” about the pharmacological effects of kratom -- a plant originally from southeast Asian that is a relative of coffee.
The Senate asked the DEA in September to delay its “unprecedented” decision to ban kratom. In an emergency scheduling authority, a bipartisan group of nine senators said kratom “is a safe alternative to prescription opioids” and suggested that DEA’s regular route for scheduling substances “would provide for a much-needed discussion among all stakeholders.”
Kratom supporters gained over 140,000 signatures in a White House petition calling for the Obama administration to reconsider the DEA’s intent to schedule the plant.
In the DEA’s announcement to schedule kratom, the agency said that more than 600 calls related to kratom were made to poison centers between 2010 and 2015. The agency also said that 15 deaths were linked to kratom use. However, the DEA later noted in a Washington Post interview that other substances were also used in 14 of the deaths.
The DEA will leave kratom open for discussion until December.