From Mac Haddow AKA Chief Lobbyist and Legislative Director
For everyone’s information, here is the sequence of events on SITSA:
1. SITSA bill is passed by the House Judiciary Committee last year after the National Kratom Coalition (NKC) – then a newly organized group of just a few weeks – lobbied the Committee in opposition to the AKA amendment to exclude kratom.
2. The bill was subject to a joint referral to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and AKA had commitments that when SITSA was heard AKA would have the opportunity to present its amendment. However, SITSA was never considered by E&C in either a hearing or a mark-up, even when about 17 other “opioid related” bills were marked up by the Committee.
3. Late last week, based on reports from staffers, the Speaker’s office directed that all opioid related bills – particularly those interdicting fentanyl at our borders – should be added to the package of House bills on the opioid crisis for a vote on the House Floor this week. SITSA was added because it does make the importation of opioid analogues illegal.
4. E&C waived jurisdiction on Thursday of last week, and SITSA will now be before the House Rules Committee. The rules required any amendments had to be filed by 3 PM on Monday.
a. Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) filed the kratom amendment, and Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has filed as a co-sponsor.
b. Our goal is to (1) lobby the Rules Committee to accept the Pocan/Gosar Amendment; and (2) convince as many other House members as we can to sign on as co-sponsors prior to the Rules Committee meeting tomorrow afternoon.
5. If the Rules Committee does not accept the Pocan/Gosar Amendment, it is possible it will be offered and considered on the House Floor – subject to the rule of the Chair for hearing amendments. Given this is as much a political play to highlight the effort by the House to fight the opioid crisis, there may not be a fair opportunity to offer the Amendment and have it fully debated.
6. If SITSA passes the House in its current form, we will take the fight to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
What is not true is that “any representative can add any amendment to any bill, at any time, whether it is needed or not.” Amendments can only be OFFERED when the rules permit, and those opportunities are limited.
More importantly, an amendment must survive (1) numerous procedural hurdles (including whether it is germane to the bill itself), and then (2) must have a majority vote. Many good amendments are discarded because they may be controversial, or they require too much time to debate to secure a majority vote. In the current environment where the opioid crisis is dominating many of the political races, there is a rush to judgment on to push every bill on these issues through the legislative process without careful consideration of the impacts.
Claims that AKA “started the panic about SITSA last year” is a grossly irresponsible claim. Expert legal and policy analysts could see the broad definitions that put kratom at risk of being scheduled under SITSA, and Commissioner Gottlieb proved we were right with his claims "kratom is an analogue of an opioid". That is all the Attorney General would need under SITSA, given there is no requirement for science to drive any scheduling decision.
The kratom community should be unified in its goal to protect kratom. Even if there are some who do not think Kratom could or would be subject to SITSA, we should adopt the “better safe than sorry” strategy and fight for the Pocan/Gosar amendment. Then we can say with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that SITSA cannot be used to schedule kratom.