Kratom Conspiracy

Get your tinfoil hats on, there’s a conspiracy a-brewin. For within the halls of our fearless government institutions, a great war is being planned. A war to save us from ourselves, to shield us from that insidious enemy that for generations has plagued us from the inside, ravaged our minds, corrupted our morals -- public enemy number 1, psycho-active plants.

These sneaky plants use their alkaloids to elevate our moods, increase our physical and mental health, keep us high so that we keep them around. And they do it without making our pharmaceutical companies any money.

You still can’t patent a plant, and plants just want to grow and as long as those facts remain, this war will rage on. Please see the history of Cannabis. Please witness the current war on Kratom.

Kratom, a plant in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia, is a godsend. It’s like it was made for use in the kitchen and on the farm. Simultaneously boosts your energy and mood while taking away the little aches and pains that come with 15 hour shifts standing on a tile floor or crawling through the fields. It doesn’t impact your cognitive abilities. It’s not mind-altering in the sense that you may experience paranoia or delusions. It won’t slow you down when there’s a full dining room and twenty tickets on the board. Kratom eases the stress of hard jobs, which is why it’s been used for generations by farm laborers in Southeast Asia, which is how I heard of it in the first place. Increases productivity, elevates mood, takes away pain. Sign me up.

While it is still unregulated and legal to purchase in the US, kratom is currently under attack from the FDA and DEA, and the reasons behind this attack -- well, that is where the conspiracy lies.

Last year the DEA announced a state of emergency regarding kratom. They would be making it a scheduled substance in a manner of months with no public hearing and no comment from Congress. I filled my freezer with kilos of it, anticipating an end to the open market that allows you to buy the plant online. Then something strange happened -- our government listened, our democracy worked.    

Hundreds of thousands of people came out in support of the plant, signed petitions, wrote their Congress persons. Considering that the DEA was labeling kratom “herbal heroin,” this sort of responsible advocacy and activism must of been surprising. Junkies aren’t known to organize or advocate, and the people writing these letters certainly weren’t junkies. They were teachers and accountants and veterans and farmers and chefs. In fact many of them were recovering junkies using kratom to wean off of opioids and become responsible members of society. The sentiment was clear -- kratom helps me live a healthy, productive life, don’t take it away. And the DEA listened. At least momentarily. They called off the emergency scheduling, but it now seems that kratom is back in their crosshairs.

There was a public health advisory issued by the FDA in November calling kratom dangerous, with a high potential for abuse. Then a February statement by the FDA commissioner calling kratom an opioid associated with addiction and death. And now kratom is being linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak. The question is, is the timing of this outbreak coincidence or conspiracy?

When I was farming and convinced that small scale, sustainable farms could become the primary food source in our country, I used to imagine the tactics big Agribusiness could use to sabotage the movement. They wouldn’t give up their market share without a fight, and with the type of resources ADM and Monsanto have at their disposal, I imagined a full on propaganda war on organics. It seemed to me the best tactic would be to attack the safety of consuming food that hadn’t passed under the watchful eye and regulations of big brother. It would only take a few illnesses or deaths from organic spinach or raw milk or pastured poultry before the media whipped consumers into a frenzy. The Organic Panic. How do you know your food is safe to eat?

Of course, my tinfoil-hatted head imagined shadowy operatives from Monsanto with vials of salmonella infecting products at farmers markets and Whole Foods. I imagined the same thing when Chipotle kept having salmonella outbreaks -- Ronald McDonald or the Hamburglar sneaking into Chipotle warehouses, infecting the lettuce.      

So when headlines started popping into my feed about this kratom salmonella outbreak, my mind immediately went down the conspiracy rabbit hole. Here is a plant that keeps people off of pharmaceuticals like pain pills and anxiety meds, a plant that is easily accessible online and affordable and gaining in popularity to the point that 3-5 million people are estimated to use it on a regular basis, a plant that has been the focus of the DEA and FDA for years, and suddenly in the midst of a full court press of disinformation and fear mongering, the plant is linked to salmonella.

The FDA must have a ton of those vials.

Honestly, I don’t actually believe that the FDA is contaminating kratom at the border or intentionally making Americans sick, but the timing is more than a little suspect. Whatsmore, even if the pharmaceutical companies and the DEA and FDA aren’t all in it together, they all stand to benefit if kratom is placed on the scheduled substance list. 3-5 million people back on meds. A black market for the DEA to police. No more worries at the FDA about regulating or studying an herb. Just make it illegal. People can’t be trusted with psycho-active plants. We can’t be trusted to decide what we put in our bodies, but the FDA should be trusted when they tell us plants are deadly but Fentanyl and Oxycontin and Xanax are safe. It seems things only qualify as medicine if they can make a few people very rich, and believe a farmer when he tells you, plants will never do that.