DEA refuses to release evidence backing Kratom ban

Agency responds to request for hard data with press releases and copies of federal laws

Written by anthony roberts
Edited by JPat Brown

A version of this article appeared on Medium.com

On August 30th, 2016, the DEA filed a notice of intent to temporarily designate Kratom (specifically its alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine) as a schedule 1 drug. That notice listed 33 footnotes/references, but the actual references themselves were not included in the document itself.

Later that day, I filed a FOIA request for all of the data and documents referenced in the 33 footnotes.

This is a fairly straightforward request. The DEA wants to make this stuff illegal, and I want the public to have access to the same information as the DEA. Tens of thousands of people signed the petition to keep kratom legal (over 100k in the first week), and as a result, the DEA opened up a comment period for the public to respond. But in order to respond fully, we need to know what we are responding to. This means we need to see the information referenced in their footnotes, which is the evidence they’re relying on to ban kratom.

In the case of some of the footnotes, I was asking for specific data they’d collected (from footnote (17 and 18, for example):

“abuse of kratom/mitragynine [17] were analyzed by Federal, State, and local forensic laboratories.[18] According to data from the System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) and STARLiMS (a web-based, commercial laboratory information management system), from January 2006 through March 2016, there were 293 records for kratom and/or mitragynine”

In other words, I was asking for the actual data references in footnotes 17 and 18, respectively, i.e. if there are 293 records on kratom abuse from January 2006 through March 2016, and those records were considered when the DEA attempted to schedule kratom, then the public should be able to inspect them.

But the DEA has refused to provide us with their evidence. In fact, they provided absolutely none of the data they referenced. Instead, they provided documents that were already available (FDA press releases, copies of federal laws and regulations, etc), none of which I didn’t already have a copy of. None of that provide evidence that supports the DEA’s attempt to ban kratom.

The DEA wants to make kratom illegal, and they are completely relying on data and communications that they are outright refusing to provide. Why even list 33 footnotes if you won’t allow the public to have access to them?

The DEA release is embedded below, and you can read the rest of the docs on the Kratom Project Page.


Image via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY 2.0