By Pat Anson, Editor Pain News Network
Recent efforts by state and federal lawmakers aimed at punishing drug traffickers could wind up sending people to prison simply for seeking pain relief, according to critics.
This week the American Kratom Association (AKA) sent an action alert to members warning that a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein could be a “backdoor way” of banning kratom -- an herbal supplement that millions of people use as an alternative to opioid painkillers.
The “Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017” – also known as the SITSA Act – would give the Attorney General the power to list as a “Schedule A” substance any unregulated drug that has a chemical structure similar to that of a drug already listed as a controlled substance. A similar measure has been introduced in the House.
The bills are ostensibly aimed at banning chemical cousins or “analogues” of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for thousands of overdose deaths that is increasingly appearing on the black market.
But kratom supporters fear the SITSA Act could also be used to ban kratom, something the Drug Enforcement Administration tried unsuccessfully to do last year, claiming it was an "opioid substance" with “a high potential for abuse.” Kratom is not an opioid, but it has opioid-like properties that reduce pain or act as a stimulant or depressant – much like a controlled substance.
“So now the anti-kratom bureaucrats in Washington want to ban kratom simply by claiming it has the same effects as an opioid – calling it an ‘analogue’ of the opioid,” said Susan Ash, the AKA’s founder and spokesperson. “After everything that we’ve fought successfully against and endured together as a movement, our lobbyists are concerned that this is now the perfect storm for banning kratom.”
Ash wants the SITSA Act to be amended to exclude natural botanicals like kratom. In its current form, she says the bill could impose prison sentences of up to 20 years for importers or exporters of kratom, which is made from the leaves of a tree that grows in southeast Asia.
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