Proposals to legalize marijuana in Virginia cleared key committee votes in both chambers of the state legislature over the weekend and Monday morning as lawmakers raced to qualify the bills for full floor votes ahead of an upcoming mid-session deadline on Friday.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and top lawmakers unveiled the legalization plan in mid-January, on the first day of a short 2021 legislative session scheduled to end later this month. To survive into the next stage of the session, versions of the marijuana proposal must pass the Senate and House of Delegates by Friday, the state’s so-called crossover deadline.
“This is a breakneck speed for us,” Del. Vivian Watts (D), vice chair of the House Courts of Justice Committee, said at a virtual meeting on Sunday, where the panel voted to approve the House version of the legislation, HB 2312, and refer it to the House Appropriations Committee. If it succeeds there, the measure would next advance to the House floor.
Our bill on cannabis legalization is continuing to make its way through the process. It passed House Courts committee & is moving to Appropriations next week. Proud to serve as Chief patron on this ground breaking legislation that is huge step towards justice in the Commonwealth. pic.twitter.com/mSiHG3UIgN
— Charniele Herring (@C_Herring) January 31, 2021
On the Senate side, the Judiciary Committee approved that chamber’s version of the bill, SB 1406, at a hearing Monday morning after it cleared that panel’s Expungement subcommittee over the weekend. That bill now goes to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, next scheduled to meet on Tuesday, before potentially proceeding to the full Senate.
All told, the two marijuana legalization bills sailed through a total of five committees and subcommittees over the past three days alone.
Despite amendments made in both chambers, lawmakers at hearings over the weekend said they have lingering questions over numerous specific details, including business regulation, effective dates, social equity and penalties for violating proposed limits on possession and sales. Legislative leaders repeatedly stressed that there would be further opportunities to make changes as the proposal proceeds.
“This has been a very robust process involving a number of members on a number of committees, and it continues,” Watts said Sunday afternoon before calling for a vote on the bill. “With that understanding, this is a work in progress.”
Reform advocates said lawmakers’ immediate goal is to get the bills to the floor so they can clear the crossover hurdle. If the legislation don’t get floor votes by Friday, legalization is dead for the session.
“At this point it’s unnecessary to get mired in minutiae,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Currently, efforts are largely focused on advancing the bills to their required floor votes before the crossover deadline, and in a posture that is generally acceptable by the majority of each chamber.”
That dynamic was on display Saturday at a hearing of the House General Laws Committee, as members began digging into a new rule in the chamber’s bill that would prevent licensed marijuana companies from owning multiple categories of business licenses, a practice known as vertical integration. Some members of the committee said they worried that prohibiting vertical integration altogether could hurt small cannabis businesses that might, for example, want to both grow cannabis plants and process them into products such as edibles or tinctures.
One public commenter, representing the Cannabis Business Association of Virginia, suggested adding a class of microbusiness licenses that would allow small companies to vertically integrate. The comment drew follow-up questions from lawmakers, but the committee’s chair, Del. David Bulova (D), told colleagues he was “hesitant about making any changes on the fly.”
Ultimately the panel approved the bill without further addressing vertical integration, with Bulova assuring the committee the matter would be taken up again. “This is not the final decision,” he said. “I can’t imagine this would be the final stop with respect to how we land on vertical integration.”
Other proposed changes are more certain to make it into the final legislation. For one, the Virginia’s alcohol regulators won’t be in charge of overseeing the legal marijuana market, as originally proposed in the governor’s bill. Instead, the House General Laws Committee voted to mirror a change made last week by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee and establish a new, separate regulatory body for marijuana called the Virginia Cannabis Authority.
To accommodate the creation of the new agency, committees in both chambers also agreed to push back the start of legal sales one year, to January 1, 2024.
It’s still not settled when simple possession of marijuana would become legal, although Senate lawmakers moved in subcommittee to make it so that would occur on July 1 of this year.
“Otherwise all we’re doing is setting up a situation where people are paying civil fines for something that is going to be completely legal eventually,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellen (D), who introduced the successful amendment in the Senate Judiciary’s Expungement Subcommittee. Home cultivation would not be legalized until cannabis stores come online in 2024 under the chamber’s bill, however.
Last year the state passed legislation decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing existing penalties with a $25 civil fine and no threat of jail time. The law took effect last July.
Some House lawmakers who met over the weekend, however, worried legalizing possession too soon before opening licensed stores could end up fueling the illicit market. It’s an issue likely to see further discussion as the bill continues its path through the legislature.
“There are still a multitude of finer points to debate, and that’s to be expected a little further along in the legislative process,” said Pedini, who also serves as national development director for NORML. “Should both bills succeed, they will be sent to a conference committee for reconciliation.”
Other changes made by House lawmakers over the weekend would affect wide-ranging issues around business licensing, social equity, criminal justice and home cultivation of cannabis.
Under changes adopted by the General Laws Committee, the number of business licenses available would be capped at a maximum of 400 retail, 25 wholesale, 60 manufacturing and 450 cultivation. Licensees could only hold licenses of a single type—vertical integration would be prohibited—and no entity could have more than five licenses.
The state’s four existing medical marijuana businesses would be able to apply for licenses under the separate adult-use system, but they wouldn’t have an advantage in getting licenses or be able to start sales early. Some lawmakers questioned the rationale for that approach.
Del. Paul Krizek (D), who chairs the House General Laws ABC and Gaming Subcommittee and helped coordinate the panel’s marijuana legislation, explained that the provision was aimed at promoting small business and local control over comparatively large marijuana companies operating in multiple states. The same justification was behind limiting vertical integration.
“Our goal was to craft the best regulatory framework we can to legalize adult use of marijuana in a safe and equitable manner,” Krizek said.
Retail stores under the House bill would be permitted to sell only marijuana products and paraphernalia—not meals, snacks or other goods, as once envisioned in the bill. Marijuana products would need to be tested for both contaminants and THC potency.
Both retailers as well as licensed cultivators could sell seeds and immature plants to adults 21 and over, who would be allowed to grow up to two mature cannabis plants and two immature plants at home for personal use. But unlike the Senate’s version of the bill, which would allow adults to grow the plants indoors or outdoors, changes adopted by the House General Laws Committee on Saturday would allow only indoor grows.
The committee also established a social licensing category for businesses that are at least 66 percent controlled by alumni of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Commonwealth, an effort to ensure that those from communities most harmed by the war on drugs share in the new industry’s profits.
The House committee also adopted changes to licensing provisions aimed at protecting union organizing efforts in the cannabis industry, allowing state regulators to suspend the business license of a marijuana company that “fails to stay neutral on union organizing efforts or does not pay prevailing wage per the U.S. Department of Labor or designates more than 10 percent of employees as independent contractors,” David May, an attorney at the state Division of Legislative Services, said at Saturday afternoon’s hearing.
House lawmakers made further changes at the Courts of Justice hearing on Sunday, clarifying a rule that would allow adults over 21 to gift each other up to an ounce of marijuana and increasing penalties for personal possession of between one and five pounds of cannabis.
Regarding the legislation’s plan to automatically expunge past convictions for low-level marijuana possession, Colin Drabert, deputy director of the Virginia State Crime Commission, said there might be technical issues with how those cases are coded. The obstacle could force individuals to petition the court themselves to erase past criminal convictions.
Lawmakers didn’t immediately address that concern, however. Watts, the vice chair, suggested “a technical amendment that could possibly be handled at the floor or appropriations committee.”
While lawmakers took public testimony during the hearings, they did not propose any amendments in response to comments.
Billie Brown, founding member of the Cannabis Equity Coalition of Virginia, was one of a handful of public commenters who urged lawmakers to ensure the bill recognizes the harm the war on drugs has done Black and brown people and invests in rebuilding those communities.
We propose strongly that Virginia allocates 70% (not 30% as currently written in the bill) of tax revenues to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund.
— ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) January 22, 2021
In testimony before both House committees, Brown urged lawmakers to increase funding from marijuana revenues to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, which would direct money to scholarships, job training and workforce development, low- and zero-interest loans for social equity marijuana business applicants and other programs for historically marginalized populations.
Currently 30 percent of revenue from the legal system would go to the equity fund, while another 40 percent would go to fund pre-kindergarten education. Brown called for the full 70 percent to be directed toward equity. The ACLU of Virginia has called for a similar change.
“While CECA is in favor of funding pre-K,” Brown told lawmakers, “this has always been a direct obligation of Virginia taxpayers from the general fund.”
Other issues lawmakers considered but did not immediately act on included limits on advertising—which many said they hope to make as strict as possible without violating free speech protections, in order to avoid appealing to children—as well as certain homegrow and consumption rules that seem to privilege homeowners over rental tenants and those living in public housing. Changes to those and other provisions of the bills could still be coming.
While Virginia’s legalization proposal has a long way to go with just weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers said so far they’re impressed by the effort that the bill’s lead patrons, as well as other lawmakers and advocates, have put into the policy change.
We led the fight to decriminalize cannabis in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Now it's time for legal, regulated use.
The House Courts of Justice Committee is meeting TODAY at 1pm to discuss adult marijuana use. Submit a request to provide testimony here:https://t.co/zLyl7CKymt
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) January 31, 2021
The state’s legalization proposal stemmed from an official state study conducted by a legislative commission on legalization as well as a working group consisting of four state cabinet secretaries and other officials. Those studies were part of the marijuana decriminalization bill passed last year.
“This is the product of an incredible amount of hard work,” Del. Mark Levine (D) said at Sunday’s hearing, “and it shows in the 563-page bill.”
Congress To Vote On Marijuana, Psychedelics And CBD Amendments This Week Following Committee Action
A key House committee on Monday cleared a series of cannabis and psychedelics-related amendments for floor votes as part of large-scale spending legislation. That floor action could happen as soon as Tuesday.
However, the panel also blocked two measures on housing protections for cannabis consumers that legalization supporters hoped to see advance.
One of the most notable amendments the House Rules Committee allowed to move forward for possible attachment to appropriations legislation would remove a rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine.
The reform measure is being sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and it targets 1990s-era provision that’s long been part of spending legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The congresswoman attempted to eliminate the language via an amendment in 2019 only to have it defeated by Republicans as well as a majority of her party. But it’s far from the only measure being proposed this appropriations season when it comes to drug policy matters.
Some are being backed by reform advocates, while others have received sharp criticism.
One pro-reform amendment that’s advancing would encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve rules allowing CBD as a dietary supplement and food ingredient.
On the other side, there is a proposal from Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) to the HHS appropriations bill to eliminate a rider that’s currently in the bill that “allows federal funding to go to institutions of higher education that are conducting research on marijuana.”
The reason this measure has generated particular pushback is because research into cannabis is an overwhelmingly bipartisan issue, and top federal drug officials have repeatedly urged Congress to support policies that make it easier to study the risks and benefits of the plant. What’s more, Lesko represents a state with adult-use legalization on the books.
Activists are disappointed that two marijuana reform measures from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) are being blocked from floor consideration. Her proposals—which were aimed at appropriations legislation for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—would have made it so marijuana possession or consumption could not be used as the sole basis for denying people access to public housing. One Norton amendment was narrowly focused on medical cannabis while a second measure would have covered all marijuana use that’s legal under state laws.
“It’s disappointing that those who rely on public support for housing will continue to be discriminated against for their state-legal choices,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment.
Advocates were surprised that the Rules Committee, chaired by marijuana reform supporter Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), sought to prevent a floor vote on the Norton cannabis amendments.
A committee spokesperson told Marijuana Moment that the proposals “had points of order against them and we never make amendments in order with points of order against them.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): Allows United States researchers to study and examine the potential impacts of several schedule I drugs, such as MDMA, psilocybin, and or ibogaine, that have been shown to be effective in treating critical diseases.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR): Increases and decreases by $5 million, funding for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA, to highlight the need for the Agency to proceed with rulemaking on cannabidiol (or CBD) by no later than 180 days after enactment, out of concern that the FDA has not initiated rulemaking to establish a regulatory pathway for CBD as a dietary supplement and food ingredient.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ): Strikes language that allows federal funding to go to institutions of higher education that are conducting research on marijuana.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA): Transfers $25 million from the Environmental Programs and Management enforcement activities account to the National Forest System account for enforcement and remediation of illegal marijuana trespass grow sites on federal lands and for the clean-up of toxic waste and chemicals at these sites.
Here are the amendments that were not ruled in order and are thus dead:
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC): Prohibits HUD from enforcing the prohibition on the use or possession of marijuana in federally assisted housing in states where marijuana is legal.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC): Prohibits HUD from enforcing the prohibition on the use or possession of medical marijuana in federally assisted housing in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA): Prohibits funds from this section from being used to fund needle distribution programs for illegal drugs.
Rep. Ted Butt (R-NC): Prohibits federal funds from being used to purchase clean syringes for illegal drug use.
Rep. Ted Butt (R-NC): Prohibits federal funds from being used to purchase clean syringes for illegal drug use in DC.
Rep. French Hill (R-AR): Increases funding by $50 million for the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program. Offsets the increase with a decrease in funding of $50 million for the Electric Vehicles Fund.
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Overall, these amendments were targeted for inclusion in an appropriations “minibus” bill for fiscal year 2022 to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Rural Development, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.
The spending package that is now heading to the House floor for votes on Tuesday also, under its language as originally introduced in appropriations subcommittees, would allow Washington, D.C. to use its local tax dollars to implement a system of lawful marijuana sales for adults.
That stands in contrast to a budget proposal from President Joe Biden, whose administration is seeking to keep language protecting medical cannabis states from federal intervention but has excluded the provision on giving D.C. autonomy to legalize marijuana commerce.
Another provision that was added as part of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) spending bill would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses. Further, the committee report attached to that legislation encourages federal government agencies to reconsider policies that fire employees for using marijuana in compliance with state law.
Federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions, a report attached to separate spending legislation that’s part of the advancing minibus package says.
Report language also directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve communication on veteran eligibility for home loans and report back to Congress on its progress within 180 days of the enactment of the legislation. A separate provision urges VA to expand research on the medical benefits of cannabis for veterans.
In the report for Agriculture Department funding, lawmakers took issue with the 2018 Farm Bill’s 0.3 percent THC cap for lawful hemp products and directed USDA to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and DEA on a study of whether that threshold is scientifically backed. That report also addressed numerous other issues related to the crop.
Other report language attached to this spending package highlights the difficulty of studying Schedule I drugs like marijuana, recognizes the medical potential of cannabinoids like CBD, encourages federal agencies not to restrict the plant kratom and acknowledges the lifesaving value of syringe access programs and safe consumption sites for illegal drugs.
The appropriations process this session has seen numerous drug policy reform provisions included in bill text and attached reports—also stopping immigrants from being deported for cannabis, for example, among other issues.
A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers recently circulated a letter to build support for an amendment to a separate Department of Justice spending bill that would protect all state and tribal marijuana programs from federal interference—going beyond the existing measure that shields only medical cannabis states that’s currently enacted into law. There are now 15 cosponsors signed on to the broader proposal, which is expected to be considered by the Rules Committee and then potentially see floor action this week.
The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) spending report also notes that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has moved to approve additional marijuana manufacturers for research purposes and says the committee supports ongoing research efforts on cannabis, particularly in the wake of an outbreak of lung injuries associated with unregulated vaping products.
A provision was also attached to the bill that would make states and localities ineligible for certain federal law enforcement grants if they maintain a policy allowing for no-knock warrants for drug-related cases. That policy garnered national attention following the police killing of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by law enforcement during a botched drug raid.
The Rules Committee is set to take up CJS and other appropriations legislation on Tuesday.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
White House Declines To Blame Marijuana Sales For Violent Crime Spike Despite D.C. Police Chief’s Comments
The White House on Monday declined the chance to blame illicit marijuana sales for a rise in violent crime in Washington, D.C.—despite the city’s police chief recently arguing that the issues are connected.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee suggested on Friday that part of the reason for the uptick in violent crime is connected to the illegal cannabis market, which he says has been deprioritized amid the national reform movement.
“When you have something where people get high reward—they can make a lot of money by selling illegal marijuana—and the risk is low, the risk for accountability is very low, that creates a very, very, very, very, very bad situation,” Contee argued at a press conference near the site of a shooting this month.
Advocates assert that Congress bears some blame for consistently passing a spending bill rider that bars the District from regulating retail sales after voters approved a 2014 initiative to legalize personal possession and cultivation for adults, thus relegating cannabis commerce to the illegal market.
Late last month, a House committee approved a large-scale funding bill that would allow the District to legalize cannabis sales by deleting the rider. The legislation is expected to pass the full House this week.
In any case, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked directly on Monday by a Fox News reporter whether the Biden administration thinks “that it may be time to get tougher on marijuana” in light of the chief’s comments. And she notably did not jump at the chance to vilify cannabis despite President Joe Biden’s ongoing opposition to adult-use legalization.
“We look to the crime that has been happening in D.C.—again one of the cities where we’ve seen rising violence over the past year and a half,” she said, pivoting quickly away from the cannabis query to discuss crime more generally. It’s “one we’re working in close partnership through both the [Justice Department] as well as our community violence intervention collaborative. We’re looking to address a range of causes, working in close partnership with the mayor and local police to bring crime down in our city.”
The fact that Psaki decided not to take aim at marijuana specifically, despite being prompted by comments made by one of the the top law enforcement official in the nation’s capital, is significant—if only because the administration to this point has been firmly footed in maintaining the status quo of prohibition.
Biden’s budget proposal specifically proposes continuing the longstanding Republican-led rider that has prevented the city from spending its own money to regulate adult-use cannabis commerce, for example.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) in May blasted the president in an interview with Marijuana Moment for seeking to extend the provision blocking her city from making its own cannabis decisions, saying she is “going to be working very hard to make sure that that rider is not in the budget” that lawmakers ultimately send back to Biden’s desk.
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said in April that local officials are prepared to move forward with implementing a legal system of recreational cannabis sales in the nation’s capital just as soon as they can get over the final “hurdle” of congressional interference.
From advocates’ perspective, allowing D.C. to do what a growing number of states have already done by regulating cannabis could help mitigate the risks associated with enabling an illicit market to continue. Giving adults the option to purchase marijuana from a licensed retailer would make it less likely that the city would see any violent criminal activity that can be tied to illegal cannabis sales, they say.
Psaki didn’t make that point, but she didn’t seize the opportunity to target cannabis as a contributing factor to D.C. violence either.
This adds to the White House narrative on marijuana that’s evolved throughout the Biden administration.
During his presidential campaign last year, Biden ran on a pledge to enact other modest reforms such as decriminalizing cannabis possession, expunging prior records and respecting the rights of states to set their own laws. Since taking office, however, his administration has not made progress on any of those promises and has instead fired its own White House staffers over marijuana and is seeking to extend the D.C. sales block.
Biden took some by surprise by suggesting that international sports rules on marijuana may need to be reevaluated after star U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended following a positive cannabis test. But that’s a far cry from endorsing comprehensive reform.
Psaki, for her part, initially declined to condemn Olympics officials’ sanction on Richardson when asked about the issue at an earlier briefing with reporters. But she later told CNN that the case highlights the need to “take another look” at the rules on cannabis.
In April, the press secretary said that Biden’s campaign pledge to release federal inmates with marijuana convictions will start with modestly rescheduling cannabis—a proposal that advocates say wouldn’t actually accomplish what she’s suggesting.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of the three leaders on the measure, said recently that he and his Senate colleagues will be talking to the White House now that they’ve released draft reform legislation.
FDA Seeks Public Input On Possible Global Kratom Ban After Domestic Scheduling Effort Stalled
After failing to get kratom prohibited domestically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now seeking public comment to inform the U.S. position on how the substance should be scheduled under international statute.
In a notice published in the Federal Register last week, the agency is soliciting feedback on a number of substances. But advocates are especially concerned about where FDA and global drug officials come down on kratom, which has been touted as a natural painkiller that works as a safer alternative to prescription opioids.
The U.S. agency doesn’t quite see it that way, however.
“Kratom is abused for its ability to produce opioid-like effects,” FDA wrote in the notice. “Kratom is available in several different forms to include dried/crushed leaves, powder, capsules, tablets, liquids, and gum/ resin. Kratom is an increasingly popular drug of abuse and readily available on the recreational drug market in the United States.”
Responses to the notice will help inform the federal government’s stance on kratom scheduling in advance of an October meeting of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, where international officials will discuss whether to recommend the substance be globally scheduled.
“The FDA’s request for public comments on a matter of such importance involving the international scheduling of kratom is an extraordinary abuse of their authority,” Mac Haddow, senior fellow of public policy at the American Kratom Association (AKA), told Marijuana Moment.
He said the August 9 deadline for the responses allows “only three weeks for scientists, public policy makers and consumers to provide responses that are well researched and responsive to the complex requirements for data and information that will be considered by the WHO Expert Committee” and is therefore “unacceptable.”
As it stands, kratom is not scheduled under the federal Controlled Substances Act or under international drug treaties to which the U.S. is a party. But some advocates suspect that since FDA has been unable so far to impose a ban on kratom domestically, it may use the WHO convention as an opportunity to get prohibition enacted internationally, a move that the country would be compelled to comply with.
“If that happens, there are 37 countries that are part of that international treaty that will effectively ban kratom around the world,” Haddow said in a recent video update to supporters. “The FDA cannot get kratom scheduled here in the United States using the criteria that’s established by the Controlled Substances Act, so they’re circumventing that and going to the WHO.”
THE AKA HAS CONFIRMED THE FDA IS NOT REQUIRED TO SUBMIT ANY COMMENTS TO THE UN EXPERT COMMITTEE — THEY ONLY HAVE TO “CONSIDER" THEM.
The AKA has created new submission portals on our sites
Please submit your comments here: https://t.co/XGSrg3FZyg pic.twitter.com/WMcF8rNUUL
— American Kratom Association (@TheKratomAssn) July 26, 2021
“We want thousands of people to comment because every one of those comments will have to be packaged up and sent to the World Health Organization,” he said. “We don’t want people complaining about the FDA overreach because we can fight that battle on a separate battleground, but we want the WHO to know the powerful experiences that people have had” with kratom.
FDA, in its Federal Register notice, said the comments “will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs.”
Haddow told Marijuana Moment that the federal agency “is prosecuting a war on kratom to criminalize more than 15 million Americans, and they ignore the public health impacts of kratom consumers being forced to opioids with a high potential for addiction and that can be deadly.”
“More overdose deaths will occur if kratom is banned, and that is exactly what the FDA is trying to do,” he said.
On the domestic level, the House Appropriations Committee recently approved a report to spending legislation that says federal health agencies have “contributed to the continued understanding of the health impacts of kratom, including its constituent compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.”
“The Committee is aware of the potential promising results of kratom for acute and chronic pain patients who seek safer alternatives to sometimes dangerously addictive and potentially deadly prescription opioids and of research investigating the use of kratom’s constituent compounds for opioid use disorder,” it said.
It also directed the Health and Human Services secretary to continue to refrain from recommending that kratom be controlled in Schedule I.
Late last year, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) asked the public to help identify research that specifically looks at the risks and benefits of cannabinoids and kratom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year separately received more than one thousand comments concerning kratom as part of another public solicitation.
FDA has on several occasions solicited public input to shape the government’s position on the international scheduling of marijuana and cannabinoids. The agency initially requested feedback on the proposal in March 2019 and then reopened that comment period five months later.
Last year, the United Nations approved a U.S.-backed WHO recommendation to remove marijuana from the most restrictive global scheduling category. However, the U.S. opposed several other cannabis reform proposals, including the one to clarify that CBD is not under international control.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/ThorPorre.