The first Kratom ban: Thailand’s corrupt history

 The FDA has not evaluated these statements. My Trees of Life makes no claims about kratom diagnosing, treating, preventing or curing disease. Our plants are sold for aesthetic and research purposes only. The following is only a historical record of events in Thailand.


Although kratom is illegal in Thailand, one cannot get treatment for kratom addiction as an option in the judicial system. This is because the 2002 Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act does not recognize kratom addiction as one that needs rehabilitation. So if they understand this fact, what negative health affects drew them to ban kratom in the first place? The Answer: None.  


     Thailand’s government used to tax and regulate opium. When the East Asian War broke out in 1942 they needed to increase revenue and recognized how kratom competed with opium. The alternative kratom didn’t cause financial ruin or have long term negative affects like opium addiction. Another option would have been for the government to tax and regulate kratom, but that wasn’t realistic because who is going to pay a tax on a plant that could be found, especially in southern Thailand, growing everywhere? So on August 3rd, 1943 they banned it with the Kratom Act 2486. In 1979 its status was changed in the Thai Narcotics Act as a schedule 5 drug, alongside marijuana. This was the least restricted out of all schedules, and the purpose of the redesignation was that the original Kratom Act’s penalties were too harsh. On January 7th 1943 Police Major General Pin Amornwisaisoradej, house of representative member from Lampang, 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.”


  Today Thai officials are starting to acknowledge that the reason for the ban was economical and not for public safety. Here is a quote from Mr. Surphon Patharapagorn, director of the ONCB division 9:   


“It is fairly well established that the Kratom Act was put in place due to the government losing money from the taxation of opium. Local preference had moved toward kratom, hurting the opium market.”  


Opium use has risen since the ban on kratom. Thailand’s very own Narcotics Control Board made a report in 2010 that stated that kratom is not socially dangerous or harmful, and not prone to abuse. A report by the Transnational Institute was made after 2010 desk and field research in provinces Hat Yai, Trang, Satun, Songkhla, Bangkok, and Surat Thani. Here is an excerpt from the report:      


“Kratom is an integral part of southern Thai culture. Criminalization of kratom is unnecessary and counter-productive given decades of unproblematic use.”  


The report goes on to make an excellent case for decriminalization. A bill was introduced by a Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri in 2013 in an attempt to decriminalize kratom. However it still remains illegal today. In fact from 2005 to 2009 we had a gradual 6-fold increase in kratom arrests. In 2012 a report stated that 5,897 people were arrested for kratom offenses, while opium related arrests were only 522. There were 832 for heroin and 2 for codeine. The discussion in Thailand to legalize kratom continues to this day.  


Today in 2016 mitragyna speciosa is still illegal in Thailand, but you won’t be executed for possession of an ounce, as some rumors online would have you think. People that are arrested for kratom related offenses rarely go to jail, and when they do, the sentencing guidelines allow incarceration for no more than 2 years for production, import, export, selling, and possession with intent to sell. Possession and/or Use has a 1 year maximum jail sentence.