Can Kratom Grow the US Economy?

July 06, 2018 Articles, Kratom Research, News, Op-Ed

The US Food & Drug Administration have warned the public against using kratom for any of its purported benefits.

In a statement earlier this month, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “As we have previously stated, there are no proven medical uses for kratom and the FDA strongly discourages the public from consuming kratom. The subsequent findings of this investigation only strengthen that public health recommendation. Kratom is an inherently addictive product that can cause harm, which is reason enough not to consume it.”

But is the FDA thinking about the potential downsides to doing away with kratom? It would appear that they are not.

Back in June, journalists Yoga Rusmana and Bruce Einhorn wrote an in-depth expose about kratom for Bloomberg in which they revealed that the demand from Americans for kratom had single-handedly changed the face of the economy in Indonesia.

In their piece, they talk about how newly affluent residents are building add-ons to their houses to accommodate the harvested plants and how workers are now able to purchase the newest Honda motorcycles on the market.

The economy in West Borneo is booming, their articles says, and it is solely due to the rise in kratom popularity. One local entrepreneur told Rusmana and Einhorn that he estimates there are at least 60,000 kratom-related businesses occupying the region.

Unfortunately for these people, the good times may not last if the FDA has its druthers. Should kratom become a controlled substance and importation of Mitragyna speciosa be abolished, these individuals may find themselves out of of a job.

But what of the Americans working in the kratom space?

This is a good question and one that bears asking as there were approximately 10,000 kratom vendors in the United States as of 2016 with an annual revenue of $1 billion. Think about that. One billion of anything is a lot, but who’s to say how much that number could grow if kratom remains unregulated?

The easy argument would be to say that this is shady drug money that’s being put in the pockets of people who are peddling a “dangerous” substance, but one need only look so far as a company like Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant whose Oxycodone sales have fueled a national opioid crisis, to see that Big Pharma is making money hand over fist by offering dangerous substances to patients.

What’s the difference?

The difference is, kratom is a natural substance, not a synthetic compound. Although some disreputable kratom companies have mixed their kratom with synthetics in the past, this is not the case when it comes to pure kratom powder.

Kratom has been used for hundreds of years by natives of Southeast Asia to treat chronic pain, insomnia and more. Regardless of the FDA’s claim that there is inconclusive evidence to support its purported health benefits, the notion that it could drive the US economy is something far more debatable.

I’ll reiterate: The US kratom industry is a billion dollar industry and that is money that can go back into the US economy. Many in the kratom community are eco-friendly, health-conscious philanthropists who believe in sharing the wealth and making the world a better place.

A lot of us regularly donate proceeds from kratom sales to charities that matter to us. Others invest in important initiatives. This is not blood money, by no means. And it’s safe to say that kratom may be able to serve a similar function to that of tobacco or alcohol.

Consider this: An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes on an annual basis. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. And, yet, these harmful substances are allowed to be freely purchased in your neighborhood convenience store or supermarket.

Granted, alcohol and tobacco’s packaging must carry clear warning labels informing the public of their potential harm, but aside from that, they are not regulated nor are they demonized. Instead, alcohol is celebrated in advertising, motion pictures, television and other forms of media.

One of the leading tobacco companies, Imperial Tobacco Group, generated $39.1 billion in the US in 2016. Meanwhile, alcoholic beverage sales amounted to approximately $223.2 billion.

Most importantly from an economic standpoint, both alcohol and tobacco are taxed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, an arm of the United States Department of the Treasury. In 2016, revenue from alcohol tax amounted to $9.92 billion. What’s more, it’s expected to rise to around $10.73 billion in 2023.

Beer Money

What this tells us is that kratom could or, rather, should be similarly taxed by the US government and made readily available to a discerning public who can make their own mind up as to whether or not they want to gamble with their health.

Yes, kratom has the potential for tolerance and yes, kratom may lead to addiction, but how is that different from the legal stimulants and depressants sold in every corner store from here to Ontario?

This Ayurvedic herb is known to be sedating at certain dosages, just as alcohol has a similar effect at certain volumes. It is known to be a stimulant, coming as it does from the coffee family of plants. So are cigarettes and coffee, two items you’ll find at any 7-Eleven across the country.

In this writer’s opinion, I can’t see why the FDA can’t see the forest for the trees. Kratom may need to be studied more extensively to determine its value as a medicinal substance, but as a luxury item that’s high in demand and could be made taxable, it is no different from a pack of Marlboros or a 12 pack of Coors Light.

When one looks at the numbers presented above, it’s crystal clear that kratom could save our economy in more ways than one. For instance, much of the FDA’s consternation towards kratom came from the recent Salmonella outbreak that resulted from vendors selling tainted product.

If the US government were to legalize kratom in the States, vendors could, in theory, even pay to develop American-based facilities for the growth, processing and quality control of their kratom plants. Hypothetically speaking, a new strain could even be born—American Sunshine Kratom. That has a nice, patriotic ring to it, now, doesn’t it?

C’mon, Washington! Let your freak flag fly and let kratom crush it in the American revenue department. It can’t be any worse than going to a 7-Eleven and seeing a sign in the window that says, “Get Vaped.”

Bob Freville
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