DEA's plan to ban kratom generates controversy

Posted at 7:15 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 21:46:36-04

This week the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced plans to ban a herbal supplement called kratom. The DEA called it an “imminent hazard to public safety.” However, the ban has generated mixed opinions.

For those who view kratom as a harmful drug, this is a victory. On the other hand, for others who believe kratom is the answer to many of their medical problems, this is a ban they vow to fight. 

For the last two years, Linda Mautner has been on a mission.

“I just become determined,” said Mautner. “I am not shutting my mouth.”

That mission is to raise awareness about the herbal supplement called kratom.

“I will talk about this so that other lives can be saved.”
Linda blames her son's suicide on his kratom addiction.
“He was using about 6 to 8 packets a day,” said Mautner. “He would have never done something like that if he didn’t have that in his system.”
That is why this Palm Beach County mom is happy to hear that the DEA is planning to add kratom to its list of schedule one controlled substances, making it illegal.

The DEA says kratom produces opioid-like effects, adding that users are likely to abuse it and face health risks.

“I feel like it's a victory. It’s been my faith that’s carried me through,” said Mautner.

However, this is a defeat to the people who use the plant powder for pain relief as an alternative to harsh pharmaceutical. Others, use it to help with substance abuse problems.

“I think the DEA is really making a mistake,” said James Scianno.

Scianno is the owner of the Purple Lotus in downtown West Balm Beach. He says kratom tea and beverages make up about 30 percent of his business, but it’s not the money he’s concerned about.

"They’re going to be forced back into the toxicity of pharmaceuticals. The leaf is much milder, safer with no side effects,” said Scianno.

Since the DEA’s announcement this week, there has been an outpour of opposition, specially on social media, with Facebook groups like “I am Kratom” and Twitter hashtags like #kratomsaveslives.

Scianno says advocacy groups are already coming together to try and stop the intended ban.

It is possible that federal judge could stop this before September 30 which is when the temporary ban is scheduled to take place.

If it happens, the DEA will have two years to make it permanent or change type of controlled substance that it is.