51 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) urging the federal agency to halt an emergency push to ban the analgesic herb kratom by as early as tomorrow. 

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is made from the leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia and a relative of the coffee plant. Kratom leaves are sometimes brewed like a tea, or crushed and mixed with water. As the American Council on Science and Health has reported, kratom has been linked to serious health consequences, noting that, 'natural herb' or not, a drug is a drug and should go through the same regulatory process as any drug. Due to health concerns about a surge in health issues, on August 31, the Drug Enforcement Agency published a "notice of intent" in the Federal Register stating its plan to list kratom as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive category, alongside heroin and LSD, effective September 30th. In response, supplement funded trade groups an effort to get the move halted. They contend it is valuable in the U.S. for people coping with chronic pain and others trying to wean themselves off opioids or alcohol.

Organized by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), the DEA (a related letter by the 51 U.S. House Members also has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)) letter was signed by 28 Democrats and 23 Republicans, including two medical doctors serving in Congress.  

According to Pocan and Salmon: "The National Institutes of Health has funded a joint study conducted by the University of Massachusetts and the University of Mississippi to investigate the use of kratom as a remedy for opioid withdrawal. This study led the researchers to apply for a patent identifying the kratom extract, mitragynine, as a useful treatment for other addictive drugs besides opiate derivatives. The DEA's decision to place kratom as a Schedule I substance will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions—a significant public health threat."

The letter to OMB points out: "The DEA published their notice of intent in the Federal Register on August 31, 2016, only 30 days before they plan to finalize this decision to place this substance in the most restrictive classification … The Agency did not provide any public comment process for this significant regulatory decision, which will restrict consumer choice and access to the internationally recognized herbal product. We believe the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), under your jurisdiction, must utilize its statutory authority to manage and oversee this specific regulatory action to ensure the DEA is not violating federal law."

The full list of U.S. House Democrats signing the DEA/OMB letters consists of the following:
Barbara Lee - CA-13
Jim Costa - CA-16
Michael M. Honda - CA-17
Zoe Lofgren - CA-19
Julia Brownley - CA-26
Scott Peters - CA-52
Jared Polis - CO-02
Lois Frankel - FL-22
Hank Johnson - GA-04
Tulsi Gabbard - HI-02
John Yarmuth - KS-03
Michael Capuano - MA-07
John Conyers - MI-13
Betty McCollum - MN-04
Keith Ellison - MN-05
Steve Israel - NY-03
Tim Ryan - OH-13
Susanne Bonamici - OR-01
Earl Blumenauer - OR-03
Peter DeFazio - OR-04
Steve Cohen - TN-09
Robert C. "Bobby" Scott - VA-03
Gerald Connolly - VA-11
Susan DelBene - WA-01
Adam Smith - WA-09
Denny Heck - WA-10
Gwen Moore - WI-04
Mark Pocan - WI-02

The full list of U.S. House Republicans signing the DEA/OMB letters consists of the following:
Paul Gosar - AZ-04
Matt Salmon - AZ-05
Dana Rohrabacher - CA-48
Scott Tipton - CO-03
Barry Loudermilk - GA-11
Tom Graves - GA-14
Steve King - IA-04
Raul Labrador - ID-01
Thomas Massie - KS-04
Dan Benishek, M.D. - MI-01
Justin Amash - MI-03
Tom Emmer - MN-06
Walter Jones - NC-3
Richard Hudson - NC-08
Frank LoBiondo - NJ-02
Leonard Lance - NJ-07
Joe Heck, D.O. - NV-03
Brad Wenstrup, M.D. - OH-02
Mark Sanford - SC-01
Mick Mulvaney - SC-05
Ted Poe - TX-01
Dave Brat - VA-07
Morgan Griffith - VA-09