TWO YEARS AGO
I just hung up from an interview with a journalist about the spate of rumors that had been circulating in Washington DC that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was likely going to announce a Notice of Scheduling for Kratom on August 31, 2018. While those rumors proved to be untrue, thankfully, these journalists focused on what the AKA expects will happen on the scheduling issue, and one reporter focused on a tweet posted by a former AKA official that he interpreted to be a self-serving attempt to claim credit for herself or the AKA for the success in 2016 in convincing the DEA to withdraw their Notice of Scheduling of Kratom.
The question itself gave me pause, because I have personally never thought in terms of one individual or one organization being in a position to legitimately claim that anything they did, or anything an organization did, being the reason for the DEA decision. In my mind, the power of 145,906 kratom supporters who signed the “We the People” White House petition to then President Barack Obama; the more than 6,000 kratom supporters who wrote to the DEA expressing their opposition to the proposed scheduling of kratom when it was published on August 31, 2016 (despite the fact there was not even a formal comment period permitted under an Emergency Scheduling Notice); the more than 60 members of the U.S. Congress who wrote to the DEA and encouraged them to withdraw the Notice to Schedule Kratom; and the 23,232 comments (99% of which supported maintaining the legality of kratom) that convinced the DEA to reject the Emergency Scheduling proposal from the FDA. From that perspective, there simply is no room for any one individual to thump their chest and claim credit for what was only accomplished by the efforts of tens of thousands of kratom advocates.
It is that collective effort that was determinative in preserving and protecting consumer access to kratom, not one individual or one organization. To suggest otherwise is to diminish us all and, more importantly, devalues the merit of the public policy argument that Americans should have the freedom to make their own personal decisions about the dietary ingredients they choose to safely use to maintain their own health and well-being. As I personally reflect on the magnificent effort that has been expended to protect kratom by each of you, my only instinct is to express my sincere gratitude to each one of you who truly do deserve credit.
There are many, many heroes among the kratom warriors who are deserving of the thanks and appreciation of a grateful movement to protect this plant. I have often told the AKA Board of Directors how much I respect the hours of work they put forth, and their obvious dedication to this cause. But the plain truth is it certainly is not just the AKA Board who is deserving of these accolades. There are other advocacy organizations who gave their hearts and souls to this effort, and each is owed a measure of appreciation for their selfless commitment to our shared goals.
One of the challenges I faced when I became the Chairman of the AKA was to change the culture of the organization so that our focus was on motivating the tens of thousands of kratom advocates to join our cause, not seeking self-serving adulation for what had been accomplished in the past. It is likely that the vast majority of the kratom community does not know the names of any of the individuals who serve on the AKA Board of Directors. I sincerely hope that not many know my name individually – other than Commissioner Scott Gottlieb with whom I hope to have a very personal conversation soon.
Every time I speak to a reporter I emphasize strongly that the AKA is a grassroots movement that represents the interest of nearly 5 million people who use kratom in the United States today. Our cause is not about any one individual, our story is not about any personal journey from which a benefit was achieved from using kratom, but it is about the principles that underpin our democracy and that require fair treatment by government regulators of access to a plant that is safe and beneficial to those who choose to use it. Our story is about defending against a rogue government agency that uses its power to stomp on the rights of citizens.
For my part, I choose to recognize the anniversary of the DEA Notice of Intent to Schedule Kratom as a date when the fight to protect the freedom of kratom consumers actually began, and I will look to a day of celebration that will come only when the DEA agrees to reject the FDA recommendation on Kratom Scheduling and tells the FDA to focus its efforts on appropriate regulations to get rid of adulterated and dangerous kratom counterfeited products to protect the public safety and allow for the safe use of products derived from the natural kratom plant. Until then, we continue to fight, keep our heads down, and focus on the most important goal we share, keeping kratom legal.
With my gratitude and deeply personal respect to each one of you,