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Thailand’s New Kratom Laws & What it Means for You

A Thai temple and statues

While Thailand’s regional strains of kratom are incredibly popular, kratom’s legal status there is complicated. Thailand has banned kratom in its borders — a fact that some in the US have used to push for a kratom ban here. While it’s true that this potent ethnobotanical is interwoven with the region’s cultures, the basis for Thailand’s Kratom laws are not only extremely complicated, but are also constantly in flux

Thousands Of Years Of Use…

The Mitragyna speciosa tree, known worldwide as Kratom, is indigenous to the jungles and rainforests throughout Southeast Asia, where it has long been used as a medicinal plant. Historically speaking, Thailand Kratom has been one of the most culturally significant ethnobotanicals in Thai culture.

To this day, despite the putative Thailand Kratom ban, Kratom trees are plentiful in the same rainforests and jungles they’ve always grown in. In addition, Kratom imported from Thailand is readily available in world markets, as the ban still allows production for export, preserving a cash crop vital to the region.

Cars rush down busy street in Thailand

…Eighty Years Of Restriction

The history of the Thailand Kratom ban has its roots in the Siamese Revolution of 1932, which saw Thailand change from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In 1938, Plaek Phibunsongkhram ascended to his first term as Prime Minister.

As part of Phibun’s strict policies, harsh laws taxing and regulating the opium trade were put in place, seeking to profit off of the lucrative opium market. This profit motive would soon affect Thailand Kratom indirectly.

As the taxes and duties placed on opium began to price it out of the range of the common worker, consumers turned to other sources. To protect their profits and increase reliance on profitable opium, Phibun’s regime put unreasonable taxes on alternative substances. Cannabis taxes were quickly adjusted to ensure the government got its money. So locals began turning to kratom, the native botanical that grew in abundance all around them.

Thailand Kratom was untaxed and considered untaxable. After all, any citizen could simply go pick a basket of leaves from the nearby forest and sell it to whoever they met, completely bypassing government tax collectors. With more and more people turning to untaxed, unregulated Kratom rather than paying for the now expensive opium and marijuana, the government chose to enact the Thailand Kratom ban.

The skyline of Bangkok, capital of Thailand

The Ban In Effect

Ostensibly, the ban made the planting, possession, and use of Thailand Kratom illegal. The Thailand Kratom ban effectively killed the domestic trade in Kratom, ensuring that the money was instead funneled through the heavily taxed substances that lined the government’s coffers.

The Thailand Kratom ban did not, however, kill the use of Kratom. There is no practical way to eliminate the growth of a tree that is so widespread throughout the region. Usage remained high, particularly outside of city centers.

The Thai Narcotics Law replaced the full Thailand kratom ban in 1979. This law lists kratom as a Class V substance, which is considered the least addictive and harmful. This made the penalties for using Thailand Kratom less than what they were under the ban. However, punishments for Kratom trafficking, the commercial cultivation, and sale of Kratom, remain extremely severe.

Shifting Public Perception Leads To Shifting Laws

As in the United States, modern Thai consumers are increasingly seeking natural ways to take control of their health and wellness. For many, this means turning to the plants that have held a traditional place within the culture as medicinals.

Pressure began to mount on the Thai legislature to allow for the medicinal use of both cannabis and Thailand Kratom by enacting laws that allow for the proper regulation of domestic cultivation, processing, sales, and use.

In December 2018, bowing to public pressure, the 2018 Narcotic Act passed the Thai legislature. This established a program for the medical use of marijuana and Kratom. Under the new law, a medical professional can prescribe the use of Kratom or marijuana for the treatment of certain conditions.

The Thai government, particularly incoming Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, have not only signaled support for this law, but a commitment to revise it as needed to better serve the responsible users of marijuana and Thailand Kratom. This indicates a pushto allow Thailand Kratom to return to its traditional and rightful role in Thai culture.

Man walks through busy food market in Thailand

What The Lifting Of The Thailand Kratom Ban Means For Americans

Given the FDA’s push for a US kratom ban, any positive Kratom news is welcome. Kratom advocates can now point to Thailand as an example of responsible legislators listening to their constituents.

Remember that the changes to both the public perception in Thailand and the laws surrounding Kratom did not happen on their own. The Thailand Kratom ban ended because people stood up for their rights and made sure their voices were heard. People just like you.

Stay Informed And Be Active

If you want to help keep access to Thailand Kratom safe and legal, now is the time to act. 

Supporting organizations such as the American Kratom Association is one of the most powerful forms of advocacy you can take to protect legal kratom. State and local AKA chapters around the country are working to coordinate legislative action events meant to bring visibility to the public and influence your representatives by encouraging them to stand up for your rights and reject any future kratom ban.