On August 24th, the country of Thailand officially decriminalized kratom. Effective immediately, the purchase, possession, use, and sale of Mitragyna speciosa (the scientific name for kratom) will be allowed in the Southeast Asian country.
Kratom has been used as a form of traditional medicine in Thailand for generations, making decriminalization the latest win for Thai kratom users. As a result, many people are looking forward to using the plant without fear of punishment under the law.
Not only will residents be able to use and possess kratom, but they can also grow the plant. Furthermore, over 12,000 people—previously convicted of kratom-related offenses—will be granted amnesty. In addition, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, who serves in the second cabinet of the prime minister, said that 121 inmates serving time for kratom-related “crimes” will be swiftly released.
Decriminalization was achieved after amending the Thai Narcotics Act of 1976, which classified the botanical as a Category-5 narcotic. Other Category-5 narcotics in Thailand include cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms.
A Brief History of Thailand’s Kratom Ban
For thousands of years, kratom has been used traditionally throughout Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the herb grows naturally. Maeng Da kratom, arguably the most potent and popular kratom strain in the world, derives from this region. In Thai, “Maeng Da” roughly translates to “Pimp Grade,” denoting the strain’s distinct strength.
However, only the international community would come to enjoy Maeng Da. In 1943, the kratom plant was made illegal under the Kratom Act. The law also permitted existing kratom trees to be cut down. However, lower-class citizens—living in the dense jungles of the region—continued using kratom for its medicinal properties. Although illegal, Thai residents held kratom’s cultural significance close to their hearts.
When the Thai government passed the Narcotics Act of 1979, which updated the Kratom Act of 1943, kratom was named a Category-5 narcotic.
The law remained unchanged until 2016, when Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) allowed villagers in the country’s Surat Thani Province to grow and consume over 1500 kratom plants, despite the plant being illegal. The results from the ONCB’s test were so successful that they helped shape the kratom decriminalization amendments we see today.
In 2018, Thailand legalized kratom for medicinal purposes and allowed farmers to grow and export kratom in order to make a profit. Then, in May of 2021, the Thai government amended the Narcotics Act to remove kratom from the nation’s list of banned substances. On August 24th, those May amendments finally took effect, a win for kratom users everywhere.
What Should We Expect As a Result of Kratom Decriminalization?
In recent years, Thailand has aimed to liberalize drug laws. Especially when it comes to kratom and cannabis, Thai residents are seeing more options than ever before.
For example, over the past two years, Thailand regulated medical marijuana in order to create a working marijuana marketplace within their borders. The government gave licenses to grow cannabis, and even permitted households to grow up to six marijuana plants.
When it comes to kratom, concentrates are still banned. But Thai residents should soon expect a thriving local kratom market. In addition, we suspect that US consumers could soon see a rise in the number of available Thai kratom products. The recent kratom amendment allows more Thai residents to grow kratom plants.
In addition, Thailand’s kratom decriminalization should open the door for research opportunities, both at home and abroad. The ONCB recently approved 19 million Baht (about $580,000) to fund Kasetsart University’s research into the beneficial effects of kratom’s alkaloids.
Thailand vs. USA: Differing Kratom Strategies
While Thailand is rejoicing, we face a much different legal landscape back within our own borders. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeks a global kratom ban. The American Kratom Association (AKA) recently submitted over 50,000 opposition comments to the FDA, who extended the public comment period to August 24th.
It is unclear how far the FDA could take a global kratom ban campaign. It’s possible that they are airing a threat to the kratom marketplace, but time will tell what comes of this recent news.
Fortunately, Thailand’s kratom decriminalization may have ripple effects throughout the world. The more people who support the plant, the more voices we have in support of comprehensive kratom legalization. As a result of Thailand’s recent kratom changes, other countries may start to recognize the therapeutic potential of this traditional herb.
Let’s create laws that protect plants, not demonize them!
Celebrating a Win for Kratom!
This week, Thai residents are celebrating, and we should celebrate with them. Kratom is a plant that can be enjoyed by all. And in Southeast Asia—where Mitragyna speciosa trees grow naturally—kratom has deep ties to culture, historical health, and even modern-day society.
We are happy that our Thai friends can finally legally use an herb that has been ingrained in their culture for generations. Happy kratom, Thailand! We can’t wait to see what comes of decriminalization, but we suspect good things.