- Kratom has been freed from its 36 years old sentence of being a controlled narcotics. The Thai government has amended its narcotics Act 1979 and has removed kratom from the Narcotics Controlled List.
- However, the Ministry of Justice reported that the cultivation of the plant will still be under check until new supplementary laws are passed to regulate the plantation.
- The State Council has currently approved the bill, and a proposal is sent to the cabinet.
Kratom was banned in the country since the 1930s due to reasons discussed later. However, many a time in history, especially after 1979, it was tried to legalize it. The legal status of Kratom in Thailand has been in limbo. But since 2018, the stance of the Thai government over the legalization of kratom has been broadening. Recently Thai government passed a bill legalizing kratom for medicinal purposes by updating the Narcotic act of 1979.
According to the Justice Minister, kratom would now be allowed in the country for medicinal purposes. About the cultivation, there will be supplementary laws to regulate it. The bill has been passed by the State Council and has been forwarded to the cabinet. The Ministry of Justice worked with the Thai Food and Administration to announce the legality of kratom.
The connection between Kratom and Thailand
Kratom is an indigenous Thai plant. It is widely known for its health benefits. It is a deciduous tree that grows well in humid conditions, with the climate remaining hot and the soil wet. That is why kratom has been grown in Thailand for hundreds of years. But the talks about its benefits also accompany some significant concerns about its abuse and addiction. Various countries over the past years have illegalized and legalized its consumption under terms due to these concerns.
The status of kratom in the history of Thailand
The legal status of Kratom in Thailand, a country with all the suitable conditions that the plant needs to grow, has been very complex. Thailand had its first ban on Kratom cultivation in 1943. About the existing trees, it was decided that they could keep growing, but the use of their leaves and growing new trees were banned. It was regarded as a potent narcotic drug.
Where does the problem root?
In 1932 a military dictator overthrew democracy in Thailand. It provoked mass political unrests, media censorships, and arrests of largely the opponents of the government. The political unrest paved the way for various black markets, and illegal trades, one of them was opium markets.
Without realizing the effects, the military government encouraged the trade of opium, increased taxes instead of banning it altogether. The primary goal was to profit from the narcotic’s trades. The rose prices for opium forced nationals to look for alternatives. Many were already known to kratom for its energizing and boosting characteristics. It was known as the poor man’s marijuana. It began to replace Cannabis that was rather expensive.
Why was kratom banned initially?
In the late 1930s, opium addicts found a cheaper alternative in kratom. Since it was a native plant, it could be found everywhere and could easily be converted into an ingestive form; the kratom ball. The East Asian War broke out in 1942.
All the funds that the government was getting from the opium trades seemed to vaporize. The government shifted interest to find another cash cow. For that, they looked for opium’s competition.
A member of the House of Representatives from Lampang in a special meeting on January 7, 1943 (Police Major General Pin Amornwisaisoradej) said this: “Taxes for opium are high while kratom is currently not being taxed. With the increase of those taxes, people are starting to use kratom instead and this has had a visible impact on our government’s income.”
“The kratom Act” banned kratom in the country. This act criminalized growing new Kratom trees and called it mandatory to destroy existing trees. But till now, every individual in the country at least knew about kratom or knew someone from the family or friends who used it for medicinal or other so-called purposes. So for them, the act was just another bunch of words from the government. However, the act had severe penalties for Kratom ingestion. Kratom had this status retained for 36 years until it was added to the Thai Narcotics Act 1979.
Kratom became the part of Thai Narcotics Act in 1979
Kratom was added to the Thai Narcotics Act 1979 under schedule 5. Schedule 5 is the least restrictive level. It was at the same level as Cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms. This reclassification was, in a way, a reduction in the severity of its illegalized status of 1943. Since then, the Thai government became part of various treaties and agreements, including the 1962 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. All these conventions, however, do not specify kratom as an illicit drug or a prohibited substance.
Fast forward to 2019
At the end of 2019, we could see an apparent change in the stance of the Thai government over the use of kratom. The government legalized the production and possession of Kratom and Cannabis for medicinal purposes. The producers withholding license from the government were allowed to import and export it, and at the user-end, the buyers need to have a medical prescription.
The current status of kratom in the Thailand
The Thai Government moved a step further in losing restrictions on the use and production of kratom.
The vote in the Thai House of Representatives
In January 2021, the Thai House of Representatives voted to remove kratom from the Narcotic list. The resolution was then sent over to the Senate for approval.
According to the resolution, those holding permission from the Narcotic’s control board would be allowed to use, produce, export, and import kratom. People under the age of 18 and pregnant women are still not allowed to use it due to health concerns. Advertising and marketing schemes are still banned, and those violating will be jailed for six months and fined 500,000 baht.
The senate’s take on the resolution
In February, the Senate approved the resolution for the amendment in the Thai Narcotics Act to remove kratom from the list. Mr. Somsak, the Justice Minister, said there would be supplementary laws t regulate the cultivation, use, and sale of kratom within and out of the country. He also added that one of these laws is in order. People held for selling and buying kratom would also be set free.
The final legislation
According to Thailand’s Ministry of Justice, the Kratom plant has been removed from the list of narcotics, and the Narcotics Act has been successfully amended. According to Justice Minister Mr. Somsak, the amendment will come into effect on August 24. The amendment is published in the Royal Gazette to confirm the plant’s uncontrolled status further.
Science-backed benefits of kratom
Whatever its status has been in Thailand, kratom has been used n Asia for hundreds of years due to various health-related benefits. It has been used in relieving chronic pain, treating diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle cramps. It can also be used for the effective treatment of patients with opioid addiction. Research also supports its role in enhancing mood and boosting memory to some extent.
Disclaimer: Kratom has potential health risking effects too. It should not be taken unless prescribed by your physician.