Kratom is an evergreen tree that grows in the rainforests of South East Asia. Especially, the plant is indigenous of areas such as Indonesia, Borneo, and Thailand, to name a few. And, as many of you may know, the different strains of kratom take their name from the area where they come from. However, kratom has been illegal in Thailand for more than 50 decades. And most of the Thai varieties are currently harvested in other areas, such as Indonesia.
But why was kratom made illegal in Thailand, one of its countries of origin? Keep reading to learn more about the history of the kratom ban in Thailand.
Kratom Traditional Use in Thailand
It is believed that people in Thailand and other areas of South East Asia have been traditionally using kratom for many centuries or even thousands of years. However, the plant was unknown to the rest of the world until the 19th Century. It was then, in 1839, when Dutch Botanist Pieter Korthals formally described the plant.
Regarding the use of the plant, laborers of Thailand and other countries, used to chew the leaves of the plant to combat fatigue at work. Especially, the workers who more used kratom were those who worked in agriculture. These people had to endure excruciating working schedules and kratom helped them get extra energy to increase productivity. Additionally, people used kratom to treat common ailments, such as diarrhea, fever, and pain.
Regarding the method of ingestion, people typically chew raw leaves or prepared beverages with them. And, due to kratom bitter taste, some used sweeteners to mask the flavor.
Today, the plant has become popular in the Western countries and especially in the US, to help ease a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety and to get off opioids. Additionally, the methods of consumption in our area also different. People typically ingest the powder by drinking a tea prepared with the powder or crushed leaf. But also, many ingest kratom capsules or use the so-called toss and wash method, which consists of ingesting the powder accompanied by water or juices.
Kratom Ban in Thailand: History
In August of 1943, the Thai Government passed the Kratom Act 2486. This law prohibited to plant the tree, however, it continued to grow in nature and people continued to openly chew its leaves. Later, in 1979 the Thai Narcotics Act included kratom on the Category V of the law, same as cannabis. This law is not so severe as the old Kratom Act and it was intended to reduce the penalties for using kratom.
But why did Thailand ban kratom in the first place? To understand why this happened we need to put the history in perspective.
Thailand was under the government of Luang Phibunsongkhram, who dictated laws that gave his government tremendous power. On the other hand, Thai manual laborers had to endure excruciating working schedules, and, in many cases, they had to work 18 hours per day, 7 days per week. To endure these conditions, workers used to chew kratom, which gave them enough energy to go through the working day.
At the same time, the government was trading with opium. And many people were using kratom, which was much cheaper, or even free, to relieve their opium addiction. For this reason, the government decided to ban kratom, as it was negatively impacting the income that they got from the opium trade. In fact, one of the members of the government said this in a private meeting:
“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.”
Therefore, the reason for banning kratom was that the government saw kratom as a competitor to opium. You can read more on this topic in this article from speciosa.org.
Kratom in Thailand: Current Status
Since December 2018, kratom legal status in Thailand has totally changed. The Thai government passed legislation which approves the use of kratom and cannabis plants for medicinal use. Although the law still prohibits trafficking and possession of large quantities of the plants.
This gives hope to other countries where kratom is currently being subject or controversy.