Every year, it seems like the kratom industry has some sort of outcry that a pending kratom ban is right around the corner. The whole kratom community becomes ablaze with the latest gossip. And people begin rushing to stock up on their favorite kratom supplies, believing kratom stockpiles will dry up after the news hits the mainstream. A few of those years, we even got to see this in action a couple of times before the New Year. But nothing ever comes from the scare, except a large cache of kratom products in the homes of those who were able to afford it.
But there were a few of those times where the rumors circling around the internet were actually newsworthy because government agencies had been working around the clock to put a nail in the coffin of the kratom plant. One such instance was in 2016 when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it was going to perform a temporary emergency scheduling of kratom, placing the leaf on the scheduled list of narcotics. Then, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began its war of misinformation against the plant and started trying to ban it at the ports.
Now, we have a threat coming from outside of our country’s borders, originating in the very country where almost all of America’s kratom products are shipped from: that country is Indonesia. And it’s not a new development, either. It was in the works right after the DEA scare hit the US.
The world is now globalized, whether we care to admit it or not. A matter of national concern in one country will quickly become the same in another within a short timeframe. The more civilizations evolve, the more this reality becomes the norm. And there is nothing that we can do about that fact. So as kratom started getting the attention of countries within the United Nations, it was only a matter of time before American agencies would look to put the plant in its rearview mirror as well.
You see, America was far from the first country to place kratom on its radar to make it an illegal drug. Other countries had already taken the initiative within their borders. Australia was one of the first Western countries to ban the substance back in 2005. Then, around the beginning of the last decade, a few European countries made kratom a controlled substance. After that, the United Kingdom made kratom a prohibited substance under its Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016—the same year the DEA was planning on making it illegal here in the United States. Industrialized nations have been banning kratom under our noses at an alarming rate.
The kratom plant has had an uphill battle to remain a legal product here in the United States. Because let’s face it, we’re usually one of the first countries to make any plant illegal. So the fact it’s still around is a testament to the dedication provided by our country’s kratom advocates.
Even if the kratom supporters and all the industry non-profit organizations do manage to keep the leaf legal here in the US, there’s nothing we can do to stop another country from creating legislation that would ban the plant in its country. And that might be something we need to take a bit more seriously, especially countries where kratom is an indigenous tree. And we should definitely pay attention to the sole country where we get all of our kratom supplies.
Last year, in 2019, a lot of publications were picking up the rumors that Indonesia might be putting kratom on the chopping block as an export for the country. And the closer we look into those claims, the more it becomes evident that it’s certainly not gossip.
The Indonesian National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has been pushing for Indonesian officials to put kratom on a scheduled list of narcotics in the country by 2022. The BNN is trying to do the same thing that the DEA failed to achieve here in our borders. But the similarities don’t end there. While we had the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also looking to make kratom an illegal substance, Indonesia’s Ministry of Health is providing ammunition to its BNN counterpart, too.
And the BNN has been parroting the same talking points of misinformation that our FDA uses within our country. So you don’t have to be an investigative reporter to figure out where this turn of events is coming from.
The federal agencies in America have been slowly pushing the boundaries of their authority and working overtime to get kratom banned in the US. But kratom advocates have stepped up their game and made it extremely difficult for our government to accomplish that desire. So the agencies and officials that want kratom out of America’s borders have begun realizing that making kratom illegal in the States takes too much effort. Instead, they’ve been eyeing the countries in which kratom originates, using the might of our country’s influence on foreign affairs in the region. And it appears to be a work in progress, for the most part. But only time will tell if Indonesia will be able to keep American politics separate from its own.
Our nation sways other countries into doing its bidding. For one, our military might and prowess keep a lot of the other countries tiptoeing around matters that US agencies have an issue with. Another factor is the US provides a lot of foreign monetary aid to countries across the world, and Indonesia is a recipient of some of those funds. They have been for a few decades. Recently, in 2018, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)—a bilateral US foreign aid agency—concluded a five-year-aid program with Indonesia for $474 million. And the country has been selected again for a potential second-round compact with the agency. But these types of scenarios usually have a little give and take on both sides: kratom might be one of those.
Now, the move to ban kratom in Indonesia by the year 2022 might seem a bit impossible at this point. From today’s date, Indonesian government officials would only have a little over a couple of years to go before the ban would need to actually take effect. And with something as big as making one of the Indonesian farmer’s main cash crops illegal, the economic impact would be felt. But we can’t rule it out altogether, either. We just discussed how American agencies have been pouring money into that country to help prop up its economy and position on the global stage. And those politicians can’t afford to lose that type of foreign aid coming into the country because it helps them to maintain their power. Cash crops change throughout a country’s history, but a nation’s industrialized commerce will always remain front and center in political discourse.
If Indonesia were to create legislation to make kratom illegal or try to fast-track the ban, then there still might be a grace period of a few years prior to its implementation. Generally, Indonesian farmers are given a five-year window to replace any legislated crops with another viable alternative. But, technically, according to the head of the Narcotics Laboratory Center at the BNN, the Ministry of Health recommended kratom to be placed on a Scheduled 1 list back in 2017. Putting that data into the equation, 2022 would be the five-year window the farmers would be allotted. Still, it’s an unrealistic date, nonetheless.