A group of federal lawmakers are pushing legislation that would lead to research and regulation of kratom, a controversial herbal substance,while keeping federal health officials from blocking access to it.
The Kratom Consumer Protection Act and its companion were filed last week in both the House and Senate by bipartisan lawmakers. The bill would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from holding kratom to higher standards than other over the counter substances or treating it as an “adulterated dietary supplement.”
The bill would also require the HHS secretary to create a kratom task force to investigate the plant and the various health claims made about it as well as hold a public hearing on its health benefits and risks. The task force would be required to deliver a report to Congress along with quarterly updates for two years before the group is dissolved.
Kratom is available in gas stations, tea rooms and head shops in many parts of the country, but a lot of people are still unaware of its existence or what it does.
Kratom is a plant that’s used orally in the form of powder or extract, or the leaves are eaten. It causes stimulation and heightened alertness in low doses and opioid-like sedation in high doses. It’s often touted as a natural pain reliever and performance enhancer.
Opinions of the plant, its efficacy and potential dangers are still mixed.
Supporters have claimed for years that it is one of the most effective tools for treating opioid use disorder.
“Kratom is changing the quality of life and actually saving lives of people,” said Mac Haddow of the consumer advocacy group American Kratom Association in an X post. He said that users who take the drug “for legitimate purposes” deserve to have access to safe products that have been adequately regulated by the government.
But others are not convinced the supplement should be readily available to everyone without more regulation and oversight. Injuries and deaths related to the use of kratom have added to wide-spread concern and led to outright bans in cities and counties in seven states. In July, the family of a Florida woman was awarded $11 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against a kratom manufacturer after its product was found to have contributed to the39-year-old’s death. She was reportedly taking the supplement to relieve pain.
According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kratom caused 91 overdose deaths between July 2016 to December 2017.
But advocates say those deaths could have been prevented if kratom was regulated and users were better informed about its health effects. To that end, it’s been protected by legislation in at least 10 states. The substance is currently unregulated in New Mexico.
The congressional kratom bills’ authors say neither bill would interfere with any state-level kratom laws. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers.