The legal status of kratom is under review in Thailand. Options include making kratom available only by prescription, decriminalizing small amounts and total legalization. “There’s never been a single death associated with kratom,” said Pascal Tanguay, who investigated kratom use for the Transnational Institute. “People have been chewing this for thousands of years with no cases of overdose, psychosis, murder, violent crime. Never in all of recorded history.”
Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri said he is considering the possibility of legalising krathom leaves with one of the options being to use the plant as a substitute in drug treatment programmes. But public opinion would need to be gauged first, he said. The idea could materialise if it is backed by scientific research and gains social acceptance. Krathom is classified as a drug in the 5th category of the Narcotics Act, alongside cannabis and psychotropic mushroom species, but has lighter penalties than those drugs.
The increasingly widespread use of ketum (or kratom) in Malaysia earlier this year prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs to lead a push to schedule it in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. On April 1, the amendment to the DDA was shelved. Opposition MP Wong Chen wrote a Facebook post detailing reasons for opposition to the amendment, including: usage as traditional medication, lack of socioeconomic considerations, and the need for evidence-based rehabilitation. He also emphasized that the country should be moving towards decriminalization of drugs.
Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong confirmed yesterday that the narcotics control committee under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has still not reached a decision on whether to remove kratom from the prohibited narcotics list. It could take another two months for the sub-panel, assigned to gather information on the tropical evergreen, to reach its conclusions. (See also: Justice favours legalising krathom and Kratom in Thailand)
The leaves of kratom, a native of Southeast Asia in the coffee family, are used to relieve pain and improve mood as an opiate substitute and stimulant. The herb is also combined with cough syrup to make a popular beverage in Thailand called "4x100." Because of its psychoactive properties, kratom is illegal in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. Thailand is considering legalizing kratom as a safer alternative for meth addicts, and U.S. researchers are studying its potential to help opiate abusers kick the habit without withdrawal side effects.