The American Kratom Association (AKA) supports the free speech rights we all enjoy and welcomes any scrutiny by responsible journalists on the mission and the advocacy activities the AKA undertakes to preserve and protect the freedom Americans should have in making informed choices about products they use to maintain their health and well-being.

While scrutiny and constructive criticism are encouraged, the AKA Board of Directors finds it necessary to respond to what has devolved into a series of attacks that include misinformation and arguably slanderous statements. The Kratom Herald has regularly criticized the policy positions taken by the AKA over the past year, particularly with the proposed regulatory framework adopted by the AKA at both the federal and state level that we strongly believe is the path to preserving legal access to kratom by consumers in the United States. The Kratom Herald, and its publisher, Zach Gruskin, have every right to express their criticisms and the AKA is willing to carefully reassess its positions when legitimate issues are raised.

Similarly, the advertising sponsors of the Kratom Herald prominently displayed on their publication have also been strong critics of the AKA’s advocacy position, and they too have every right to disagree with the AKA policy agenda, and to join in the strong criticisms expressed by Mr. Ruskin on a regular basis. The most prominent advertiser listed on the Kratom Herald has had disagreements with the AKA’s vendor programs on some issues as well.

So that all potential conflicts are known, it is a fact that Mr. Gruskin has been attempting to build his own kratom advocacy organization that he has formed to compete with AKA, known as “The Kratom Federation” ( This organization does not disclose whether it is a qualified tax-exempt entity approved by the IRS, or just a business operation Mr. Gruskin created and is using to promote a book he compiled of kratom testimonials from kratom consumers as a revenue generator for his business. In addition to the Kratom Herald, Mr. Gruskin has other online publications where he promotes his views on kratom, including the Kratom Café ( and that appear to be part of a support network for his advocacy efforts.

Mr. Gruskin’s latest criticisms of the AKA, and we expect there will be more he will advance in the future, center on the AKA’s selection of Upstream Consulting as a government relations contractor, and Mac Haddow, the Senior Fellow on Public Policy for the AKA, who has been a leading voice for keeping kratom legal in America since August 2016. Mr. Gruskin’s attacks on Mr. Haddow are distorted, inaccurate, self-serving, and in specific context, mean-spirited.

The American Kratom Association hired Mac in 2016 because of his unique background and proven expertise in fighting the FDA on a wide range of issues. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had already published the Federal Register Notice to schedule kratom’s alkaloids as a Schedule I substance. The AKA’s success in defeating that ban, and the multitude of assaults by the FDA and its surrogates to ban kratom, in large measure is because of the expertise, experience, judgment, and passion that Mac has brought to the fight. The AKA Board expresses its full support in what Mac has achieved, and has full confidence in his ability to help the AKA protect kratom consumers in the near and long term.

Not only has Mac Haddow shown an incredibly high level of effectiveness during the past five years, but he is immensely qualified due to previous policy and advocacy experience. Mac Haddow has worked in the government arena since 1976 when he first ran the campaign of Orrin G. Hatch for the United States Senate. Senator Hatch himself was the Senate’s premiere champion of nutraceutical, natural plant, homeopathic, and dietary supplement consumers.

During his tenure at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and since in his government relations practice over the past 40+ years, Mac has been a strong advocate for preserving and protecting consumer access to products they choose to maintain their health and well-being. He was intimately involved in the development of pro-consumer policies, including the Hatch-Waxman Act that created the generic drug industry that has saved consumers billions (at the expense of the big PhRMA companies), and the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) that put handcuffs on the FDA’s attempts to ban vitamins and dietary supplements and the FDA’s desire to force those products to be subject to new drug applications. DSHEA was, and still is, strongly opposed by Big PhRMA. For decades, Mac has successfully represented numerous consumer advocacy groups in fights against overregulation by the FDA.

In his 40+ years in government relations work in various firms, including his present firm Upstream Consulting, Mac has represented a wide range of clients, including dietary supplement, nutraceutical, medical foods, rare disease advocacy groups, and pharmaceutical companies or coalitions. When directly lobbying, those disclosures are made on the publicly available on public databases. Other consulting work is typically disclosed in pre-hiring discussions. Mac’s business partner at Upstream is his brother, and his brother has also worked with various lobbying firms in his own career over the past four decades that have been under contract with dietary supplement groups and pharmaceutical clients.

The AKA is fully aware of the client base of Upstream Consulting and the relationship that firm has with other entities, including the Natural Products Association (NPA). AKA is also aware of incidents being dredged up by the Kratom Herald that are decades old and that are a part of the public record. While none of that is relevant to our battle today, this mean-spirited and self-serving personal attack should be ignored because it is just a deliberate attempt to distract from the real motive of the attacks.

There are no conflicts in the work Mac does for the AKA with other clients of Upstream Consulting. Where policy conflicts exist, the prevailing advocacy interests of the AKA prevail, and others at Upstream Consulting handle those other client issues. Upstream Consulting has specifically informed all other clients that the policy agenda of the AKA with kratom has priority over any other issue, and those other clients have agreed to that provision and waived any conflict. No Upstream Consulting partner has ever advocated for an anti-kratom position on behalf any other client, including the NPA.

Legitimate concerns and policy disagreements often arise as passionate advocates work to achieve a common goal. In the kratom community, many hope that kratom will be free from any regulation or oversight by the FDA. The AKA disagrees given the current construct of the statutes that gives the FDA broad regulatory powers over foods, dietary supplements, and drugs. That requires a focused strategy to fight the regulatory overreaches by the FDA. What we do know is that there is no fiercer warrior today in America in the fight to protect legal access to kratom by consumers than Mac Haddow, and he proves that every day.

The American Kratom Association is proud to have Mac Haddow and Upstream Consulting in the fight for the rights of all Americans to legally consume kratom. We are particularly grateful for the tireless service Mac has provided in taking the fight directly to the FDA as they try to criminalize all kratom consumers.

VIEW PDF AKA_Response_to_Kratom_Herald_June_23_2021_1.pdf

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