French far-right and drugs: part III

Why has kratom been outlawed in France?

On January 7, 2020, catching many by surprise, France outlawed kratom. Without any open and serious discussion about it, users of the plant in the country were suddenly criminalized for buying something that helps them to have their quality of life improved facing aches and pains. Instead of discussing the issue and regulating the substance considering its beneficial properties, the French government, known for implementing the toughest drug policies in Western Europe – even with cannabis today, while the rest of Europe is moving forward – decided to jump straight to the prohibition of kratom.

In the announcement on its website and on social networks, the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) announced that kratom would be included in the list of psychotropic substances, offering poor and simplistic explanations to justify its decision, which seems rather backed by fake news headlines rather than scientific evidence.  

Kratom was placed in the list of psychotropic substances following alleged cases of poisoning and death identified between 2007 and 2018. Article R5132-88 of the French public health code prohibits the possession, manufacture, export, import, offer and use of any substance included in the list of psychotropic substances, which now includes kratom.  

“Explanations for the French kratom ban seem to be supported by fake news headlines rather than scientific evidence.”

In previous reports, the same agency had highlighted some twenty cases of alleged intoxication related to kratom in the country. Exactly as in the reports of the U.S. agencies, in most of the cases, those affected consumed strong and harmful drugs for the body, such as codeine, morphine or heroin.

The ANSM refers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its recommendations on kratom to explain its decision. However, the FDA reports also fail to provide clear scientific evidence to justify a ban on kratom. The FDA clarifies that the deaths associated with kratom were the result of adulterated products or of its consumption together with other substances: illegal drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, etc. They add that no evidence has been found to show that kratom has caused fatal overdoses.

Kratom clearly has beneficial components for the health and quality of life of its users. If the plant has become so popular among people who suffer from severe pain that were fed up with the heavy side effects of opioids, we question why would prohibition be the way to go, and not control and regulation? The question is rhetorical: last week we mentioned the trillion-dollar interests of the Big Pharma and their profitable and popular opioids.

Some more honest action could have been taken: kratom users will probably continue to buy it in some form. France could have ensured that quality controls were required for kratom sellers, but preferred to throw it into illegality alongside substances ranging from marijuana to heroin, as if they were all the same thing. This dialogue could be under debate in France, but the conservative mentality of its political class is leading us down a path without much hope of opening up in the coming years. Drug traffickers and the opioid industry are grateful.

Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel in French drug policy?

Leave a Reply