Federal Actions on Kratom: 2006 to 2018 HHS Decision to Withhold Ban

This is a timeline of actions taken by federal agencies concerning kratom up to the August 16, 2018 HHS decision to withdraw a recommendation to ban kratom. FDA has been the most active federal agency in trying to control kratom, from releasing several import alerts, to requesting shipment seizures, to sending cease and desist letters to kratom vendors. Major FDA actions are covered, but there are too many to list here.

2006-06 DEA had been declaring kratom a “drug of concern” at least since June of 2006. A 2012 article published in The Stranger cited earlier DEA bulletins from 2005. These may not have been published online:

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began putting out warning bulletins about kratom as early as 2005, saying it’s used “by young Thai militants… to make them ‘more bold and fearless and easy to control.'” The DEA warning also mentions “several cases of kratom psychosis” where kratom users “exhibited psychotic symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and confusion.” The bulletin doesn’t cite its sources

2012-06-11 FDA issues first “import alert” for kratom, giving districts the right to seize shipments from specific foreign vendors. These continue to this day.

2014-09-25 FDA seizes over 12 tons of kratom in California. FDA would continue with seizures like this to this day.

2016-07-29 CDC calls kratom an “emerging public health threat”

2016-08-31 DEA announces its intent to place kratom on the list of Schedule 1 substances based on an FDA recommendation from a May 2016 letter

2016-10-13 DEA backs off scheduling decision and opens up a comment period after fierce activism, protests, letters from scientists

2017-10-17 HHS writes letter to DEA recommending kratom be placed on Schedule 1. Media did not find out about this letter until November 2018.

2018-05-18 FDA issues warning letter to a US kratom company for false marketing claims. Warning letters like this continue.

2018-08-16 HHS Assistant Secretary of Health Brett P. Giroir writes letter to DEA withdrawing the October 17, 2017 scheduling recommendation. This letter was apparently discovered by Congressmen Mark Pocan and Morgan Griffith, and was not made available to the public until it was announced in an American Kratom Association press conference on January 28, 2021.

2018-08-17 One day after the HHS letter, then FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb releases a series of anti-kratom tweets, not mentioning the HHS decision to rescind the scheduling recommendation. This account was removed by Twitter but later archived on FDA’s website.

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