In the kratom legalization debate, the go-to argument that political figures always use when debating if kratom should be banned or not is to bring up the country Thailand. You see, Thailand is one of the Southeast Asian countries where the kratom tree grows wild. It thrives in the tropical regions of the rainforests. And the natives have used the leaf of the tree as a folk medicine for centuries. However, things changed after the Second World War.

A war-torn globe left the planet divided. And Thailand soon found itself pulled into the altercation on behalf of the Axis Powers. And the country began cultivating poppies to assist in the war efforts. When the Thai government realized the tax potential of the plant, it slowly raised the rates of the taxes to increase the revenue raised. The abundance of opium in the region led to more addiction rates. And with prices soaring because of demand and additional taxes, the commoners began looking for a cheaper alternative. Lots of the natives knew about kratom. They used the plant to fight the addiction to opiates. So they switched over to the kratom leaf instead of opium.

As the profits from the taxes fell, the politicians in Thailand made kratom illegal. However, the government recently announced it was changing its position on kratom. Now, American kratom critics recently stopped pointing to Thailand’s ban on kratom as a justified point of reference for why kratom should be illegal in the US.

Thai Government Votes to Allow Licensed Purchase of Kratom

Back at the end of 2018, the Thai legislature passed the final reading of legislation at the National Legislative Assembly. The legislation aimed to amend the drug laws in the country. In the future, the government would allow the licensed medical use of marijuana: a move that mimics the majority of states in the US. Also, the legislation would make kratom a medical commodity available with a license, too. The legislation passed in the assembly by a vote of 166-0. Not one politician voted against it. 13 representatives refused to vote on the matter, though. Still, the news seemed to mark a shift in the social outlook of such plants in the country.

Countries in Southeast Asia tout some of the strictest drug laws in the world. Thailand’s neighbor to the south is Malaysia. In 1952, they enacted the Dangerous Drugs Act. With that law, anyone caught trafficking drugs in the country can receive a mandatory death sentence. Several young men were sentenced to death for trafficking cannabis products in the past few years. A discussion to add kratom to the legislation was brought up in 2015. But the vote was shelved due to growing opposition. The death sentence for drug trafficking in Malaysia was set to be tabled around the time that Thailand announced its move to decriminalize marijuana and kratom. But the following year, Malaysia proclaimed the death penalty was here to stay for the foreseeable future. So Thailand’s neighbor remains unwavering on its drug stance.  

The Legislation Progresses at a Snail’s Pace

Thailand’s move to legalize kratom has been a slow process over the past century. The country’s initial push to make cannabis and kratom a medicinal commodity sputtered out rather quickly. For an entire year, the nation made no progress on creating legislation that would put it into action. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2020 that more news made the headlines. In March 2020, a deputy of the Thailand government went on record to state the cabinet had approved a draft of a Narcotics Act that proposed to remove kratom as a Category V Controlled Substance. But the amendment has to be deliberated by parliament members. That occurs once it gets approved by the Council of the State. So it may take a lot more time before the issue gets resolved. And at the current rate the legislation is moving, it might take a year or two before it’s passed. 

Due to the amendment taking so long, some kratom advocates have begun questioning the legitimacy of whether the law will ever get approved by the country’s parliament. But the odds are in favor of kratom legalization. The government has been vocal about its desire to tap into the lucrative trade of the substance. But the classification of kratom as a narcotic makes it impossible to pursue an industry that capitalizes on its commercial and industrial potential. The writing is on the wall. The Thai government has watched Indonesia rake in massive profits from its monopoly over the flourishing kratom trade.

Small Communities in Thailand Get the Green Light

Even though the legalization of kratom as a business venture still has some roadblocks to get past, local citizens have benefited from the new standing of kratom in the country. The Office of the Narcotics Control Board in Thailand recently passed a resolution to give the locales access to the plant for personal usage. The new law allows 135 villages or communities to plant and grow kratom trees on a trial basis. And those citizens are allowed to consume the plant or have it in their possession. However, they’re only allowed small amounts of the leaf. Too much of the plant would imply that people were selling, which remains illegal throughout the country.

In November 2020, the Minister of Justice had to go on record about kratom for another reason. The Royal Gazette had published a ministerial regulation that allowed the sale and possession of cocaine, morphine, and opium for medicinal and study purposes. But no such legislation had been drafted or contemplated. So the government was quick to inform the public that none of those substances were removed from the national list of narcotic drugs. All three of them will remain as Category Two narcotics. But the minister did address that kratom was set to be removed from the list in the future—once the parliament voted on and approved it. The Justice said that once the legislation passed, people would be able to apply for a license to grow it for commercial purposes.

Thailand Benefits from Kratom Legalization

The kratom legislation in Thailand seems to have hit a barrier. The fact that the representatives in the country are even discussing it proves the political atmosphere has slowly evolved over the years. And the shift appears to be on par with several of the developed nations in the world. However, some of those countries, like the United States, seem to be taking their own sweet time in moving forward on the progressive issue. Hell, some of the states want to move backward. Right now, we have a few states in the US that banned kratom, even though it’s legal at the federal level.

Still, more and more governments are seeing the medicinal value in plants they’ve demonized. And it’s safe to say that the push is due to the overwhelming support from those countries’ citizens. Grass-root movements and advocacy groups laid the groundwork. But social media has given people another tool at their disposal.

The legalization of kratom in Thailand would be a boon to the kratom industry. One, it would allow for more competition to progress in the region, allowing Thailand’s market to compete with Indonesia. Prices might drop lower. The potency of kratom might increase from local farmers utilizing breeding techniques to enhance the alkaloid output.

Plus, let’s not forget that  Indonesia plans to schedule kratom as an illegal substance by 2022. They’re in the process of overturning that ban. But until they do, Thailand could be the kratom community’s saving grace.

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