-How the journey of the American Kratom Association mirrors that of kratom itself
The American Kratom Association was established in 2014 but didn’t really emerge as a formidable force until 2016, when the FDA and the DEA attempted to add kratom to their scheduling program and effectively ban it. Ironically, the AKA would have likely remained relatively obscure were it not for the efforts to ban kratom. In the vacuum of administrative leadership the AKA emerged and proved the unifying force behind the torrent of support for keeping kratom available, and ever since, has flourished as its visibility and efficacy as a political power increases.
The AKA has recently seen a change in leadership that may be indicative of not only the goals of the organization but also the national climate regarding kratom. Dave Herman, who has led the AKA since its inception, has just stepped down, citing his age and the requirements for the position moving forward having evolved. This alone provides fascinating insight into the perceived changes to the relative position of kratom in the minds of law and policy makers. Herman had retired from his work in public policy some years and was able to dedicate himself full time to a mission more aligned with “education and policy ideation.” This reflects the relative obscurity of kratom as it was before the foray from the FDA to ban it. Kratom was, at that point, still very much a niche ‘supplement’ or ‘alternative medicine’. Herman’s mission reflected that the primary mission of the AKA was to inform and educate, bringing kratom out of the dark.
Matt Salmon, who spent five terms as a congressman from Arizona, is the new Chairman of the Board. His extensive and recent experience in Washington is no coincidence and further illustrates the evolution of not only the AKA but kratom’s place in the nation’s consciousness. Mr. Salmon has an immediacy with his constituents and lawmakers, something which has never been more relevant as now the AKA’s mission has shifted from informing to instituting responsible regulations and laws regarding kratom. HIs background at Arizona State University in education policy no doubt has him cognizant of the need to dispel ignorance and ensure a factual basis for kratom related policy making, but the AKA’s emphasis on reaching lawmakers shows that kratom has passed on from its infancy as a niche product and now is poised to be effected with consequential regulatory motions. The AKA is showing dexterity in its approach to protecting kratom.
As seen in our own interview with Mac Haddow, the AKA is applying significant pressure to legislative bodies – both federal and state – to ensure that kratom is protected. Welcoming transparency – an excellent tactic which disarms critics – and encouraging regulations, Mr. Haddow and other lobbyists from the AKA have struck a chord with many national lawmakers in a country with changing views on regulating people’s agency with directing their own healthcare, as evidenced by the rising popularity of medical marijuana laws and the explosion of CBD products. Doubling down with the hiring of Mr. Salmon, whose connections in Washington will no doubt help on a federal level and give credibility to the movement, the AKA continues to consolidate its gains and elevate its aspirations.
An examination of the other board members of the AKA gives further insight. Chris Bake, a board member, is a successful and energetic venture capitalist, with an extensive record of business and marketing experience. His placement is no doubt to ensure the AKA’s suffers no strain to its perception, and also to direct the regulations in such a way that kratom vendors and business models are not damaged by impending regulations. The executive director Peter Candland is noted to have a working relationship and knowledge of the IRS; this is indicative of the AKA’s forward thinking approach to business, as such a relationship pays little dividends now but ultimately will become relevant as kratom becomes a significant niche of American business.
In just 6 years since its inception, the AKA has seen tremendous growth. But when one tracks the explosive evolution of the plant they advocate for, this comes as little surprise. With 2016 as a watershed moment in the history of kratom in America, the stages of the evolution of the plant and all that accompanies it, like its legal status and business considerations, continue to move along a somewhat unprecedented path. The effectiveness of the AKA cannot be ignored, as the AKA has matched lock-step the changes kratom has seen impressed upon its community.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a community fighting for such an important cause attracts good people and has remarkable results.