The Drug Enforcement Administration’s reversal on kratom was described by the agency as a substantial shift in its direction after decades as a leader in the war on drugs, reports The Guardian. After DEA imposed its strictest drug regulations on the southeast Asian plant, the outcry was strong and immediate. Many have cited the plant as an effective treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers and other opioids, while evidence of the drug’s harms, they said, is minimal. DEA reversed its decision and halted the emergency scheduling of kratom. Agency spokesman Russ Bayer says that the decision is an indication of a changing approach under acting director Chuck Rosenberg, who was appointed a year ago after his predecessor, Michele Leonhart, resigned in the wake of a mishandled sex scandal.
“We have had kind of a cultural, organizational transformation during the past year,” Bayer said. “Our core mission has remained the same. It will always be to go after the biggest, most sophisticated, most violent drug traffickers and organizations responsible for the supply of drugs. But Mr. Rosenberg has brought in an added emphasis, an increased awareness of some of the other functions that DEA needs to be engaged with. First and foremost community outreach, educating the public in terms of drug abuse, talking about addiction as being a disease.” Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance, called the announcement “a truly remarkable moment” for an agency “with a long track record of ignoring both science and public opinion.”