Weldon Angelos got the call from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on Tuesday and broke down in joy. He had just received a presidential pardon for a federal marijuana conviction that cost him over a decade in prison.
Since having his sentence reduced and being released from a mandatory minimum sentence in 2016, Angelos has committed himself to advocating for criminal justice reform. He’d served 13 years, and he knows intimately the inequities of the system. Now, a GOP senator told him on the other end of the phone, that his conviction—and the lingering consequences it has on his life—are null and void.
— Weldon Angelos (@weldon_angelos) December 24, 2020
It was one of the more overlooked pardons this week, as President Trump also granted clemency to a slew of allies and controversial figures such as Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, former Republican members of Congress and the team of four private military contractors convicted of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre. But to civil rights advocates, the Angelos pardon represented a step toward justice.
In an interview, Angelos talked to Marijuana Moment about what the clemency means to him, as well as his ongoing advocacy for other victims of the war on drugs who remain incarcerated over non-violent drug offenses. He says he’s hoping Trump will continue to grant relief to these individuals—many of whom he’s personally urged the White House to consider—as the administration enters its final days.
Congratulations, Weldon! God bless, and merry Christmas. https://t.co/h7jlaGvThO
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) December 23, 2020
Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of several other people convicted of cannabis and other drug charges in recent days. That builds on prior acts of clemency for people like Alice Johnson, who later appeared at the Republican National Convention and whose story was featured in Trump campaign ads in the run-up to the election.
The White House description of Angelos’s pardon says he “is an active criminal justice reform advocate and champion of giving second chances,” and his conviction was the product of “excessive” mandatory minimum sentencing.
“His story has been cited as an inspiration for sentencing reform, including the First Step Act, and he participated in a Prison Reform Summit at the White House in 2018,” it continues. “In his own words, Mr. Angelos wants ‘to become whole again and put the bad choices in the past and continue changing the world for the better.'”
Read Marijuana Moment’s post-pardon interview with Angelos below. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Marijuana Moment: I want to start by just hearing how it felt when you got the news of the pardon. What was going through your mind?
Weldon Angelos: It’s the second best thing that’s happened to me in my life—the first being relief from a 55-year sentence. This is the next best thing that could possibly happen. I got a call from Mike Lee at 2:00 PM, and I broke down. Really emotional in the initial stages. I was hopeful that it would happen, but it’s really difficult.
Pardons are really tough to get, and they don’t happen often. And especially with someone like myself, who’s typically not an ideal candidate, just because of the way the government painted me as this armed drug gang-banging kingpin who was like the biggest threat to society and the biggest drug dealer in the state and, you know, a no-good thug. If I would have filed for a pardon under the pardon office, I would have got summarily denied, probably out the gate. They have a lot of requirements, you have to be out five years and they typically don’t recommend pardons for people unless they’ve been out like 20 years and have done something extraordinary.
I’m hoping that the next administration starts making pardons and commutations so regular they don’t generate headlines. That’s really what I want to see happen. I’m hopeful that this will continue. I think the the pardon office in the Department of Justice just have such an inherent conflict of interest that they shouldn’t be involved in the process, other than if they want to get their views on a case. That’s fine, but I don’t think they should have a say in it. I think it needs to be an independent board. And so even though Trump didn’t do that, this informal committee is a step in the right direction, and I hope the next administration picks up on it and maybe improves upon it even more.
MM: Can you talk to me about what you’ve been doing behind-the-scenes to advocate for people in similar situations as you found yourself in? How did you foster a relationship with the White House?
WA: When I first got out, Obama was in office, and when Trump was elected, I went on MSNBC with Mark Holden [of Koch Industries] to counter the stuff [Trump] was saying on the campaign trail. And we thought that criminal justice reform was over for four years and we’d have to start over that with the next president. So when I got invited to the White House in May of 2018, I was shocked.
I went into the White House as someone who just got out of prison, just got off federal probation, and heard President Trump literally speak in favor of criminal justice reform. And it was shocking to say the least. It all started there. When I got to the prison reform summit, I’d seen somebody who worked there that I knew that worked on my case—he worked with the Koch Network. And I developed a relationship with folks in the White House, different individuals in there.
I became sort of like—I’m not really like an advisor, but someone who recommended cases and certain actions, sort of like an informal advisor role. I was able to bring cases to their attention. And I’ve done that for a number of cases. I was happy to work with the president and his team, and I’d be happy to work with the next one. But that’s how it all started. We started with a prison reform summit. And we started working on the First Step Act.
After that summit, the next goal was getting this First Step Act done. And Mike Lee was helping. He was one of the key senators that was working to get this done, and my story was that I was the poster child for the First Step Act on the sentencing reform side. There was a lot of support in the Senate of my case and wanting to reform it. It was because my judge critiqued my sentence so forcefully—and he was a Federalist Society judge—and so that’s sort of why the conservatives were willing to listen to my judge’s views. The First Step Act was what allowed me to work with this administration, and we just continued that relationship all the way until now.
MM: What do you hope to see in the next couple weeks before the end of the Trump administration?
WA: I hope President Trump breaks Obama’s record because there should not be any federal cannabis prisoners left when Trump is out. That’s my hope. But will that happen with such little time? Probably not. But I’m hopeful that he will correct the most egregious offenses out there, like Luke Scarmazzo, like Corvain Cooper, like Michael Pelletier— people who should not be in prison.
MM: Your clemency petition was backed by GOP members of Congress like Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY). How important do you think it was to have support from those lawmakers?
WA: I think it was very important just because a lot of times presidents never get to hear about a case that gets granted. It just comes to their desk after it’s gone through the process of going through the pardon attorney, going to the deputy attorney general, then the White House counsel. Then the president gets it once it’s made its way through that process. And so the only way around that is having somebody that the president trusts, bringing it to him and saying, ‘Hey, this is a very important case. Please consider it.’ And so Mike Lee, you know, was able to do that.
A lot of people supported me—Alice Johnson—but Mike Lee was my biggest supporter. I think this was important to Mike Lee, because, you know, I’ve done so much good when I got out of jail and I’ve been working to help other people over my own self. I could have got out and tried to get back in music and focus on my career, but I’ve been working just to get other people out. And I think Mike Lee wanted the president to know all I’ve done and that I could do so much more as a full citizen. I’m no longer a second class citizen, and I think he relayed that to the president. I think that was compelling for him.
MM: What are the practical benefits of receiving a presidential pardon?
WA: Almost everything you do in life, you’ve got to fill out some kind of application, whether you’re filing for a loan, a grant, a job, you’re trying to move into a new apartment or a house. They ask you if you have a felony conviction. And usually, that fact alone prevents you from getting to the next step. In a job, you check the box. You don’t get a callback when you check the box. Even if they accept people with convictions, they’ll usually put it to the bottom of the pile. And there are certain loans I couldn’t get. Certain neighborhoods you can’t move in. If I wanted to get an apartment in a nice neighborhood and I told him I had a felony, I would be precluded from going to that neighborhood. And so when you have these felony convictions, you have to move in with other people, you have to do things around it.
Then secondly, in some states you can’t vote if you’ve got a felony conviction. When you get pulled over by law enforcement, your record shows up. And what shows up makes me look like a really bad guy and I don’t want law enforcement looking to be like, ‘Oh, this is an armed drug dealer, I’ve gotta be careful.’
So there are those benefits. I get all my civil rights back on. I have my 2nd Amendment rights restored. And I’m a whole citizen again. I don’t have to worry about it. It’s almost like an exoneration basically. Everything from that incident is wiped away, it’s gone. It’s like it never happen almost. That’s the next best thing other than getting me my 12 plus years back and missing my dad. He passed away when I was in jail. Losing a career where I had a multi-million dollar contract and those were all wiped away over some weed.
This is the best thing that can happen outside of going back in time.
MM: Trump also pardoned a series of political allies and other controversial figures on Tuesday. I wonder how you square that and whether you feel like these more popular acts of clemency for non-violent drug offenders essentially serve to detract from the controversy and earn him points.
WA: I do think that my grant was sincere. I know Mike Lee and President Trump had a conversation about it before he granted it—and talking about me and everything I’ve done. I don’t really know a lot about the other people who are granted pardons just because I’m not a news junkie. I just focus on reform. And so I haven’t had a chance to check their records.
MM: Are you optimistic that a Biden administration will continue to go down this path of granting clemency for nonviolent drug offenders?
WA: I’m cautiously hopeful because, you know, obviously the Obama administration, they waited until the last two years. And I think the country is more in favor of these types of actions than they were back when Obama was in office. My only fear would be that we go back to the [Office of the Pardon Attorney] and go back to the DOJ being the gatekeeper. And I think if that happens, then we’ll probably see less, not more. But given the climate right now,—and I think there’s a lot of pressure on Biden to do a lot of them—I’m hopeful that he doesn’t wait until a reelection or after he’s reelected, if he’s reelected, to actually start doing it because [Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)], who I’m a big fan of and a good friend of, he wanted to do 17,000 on day one [if elected president].
We’re certainly going to be pushing and we would be happy to work with the Biden administration. But we definitely are going to encourage as many commutations as possible, and I’m going to be working with Senator Mike Lee next year on passing additional reforms because the First Step Act changed a lot, but it didn’t make anything retroactive. We have that work ahead of us. But I am hopeful just because the majority of the country is moving in the right direction and there’s a lot of reforms happening in the states.
I think there’s enough pressure on the Biden administration, or there will be, that we’ll see a continuation.
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.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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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.