Illicit no more: Thailand decriminalizes Kratom and introduces regulations allowing household cultivation

Almost one year after we discussed Kratom’s legal status in Thailand, a new piece of legislation, published in the Government Gazette on 26 May 2021, is set to remove Kratom from the list of controlled substances under the 1972 Narcotics Act B.E. 2522, effectively decriminalizing all activities about the plant. This includes the consumption, production, importation, exportation, and possession of Kratom of any quantity for any given purpose. The 2021 Narcotics Act No. 8 B.E. 2562 is expected to take effect from 24 August 2021 onwards, 90 days following its promulgation.

The new legislation comes as the latest regulatory update following the Thai government’s policy of allowing the use of Cannabis and Kratom for medical purposes two years ago.   This relaxation of Kratom restrictions is also consistent with the government’s policy of pushing legislative reforms to reflect current socio-political norms as per the 2019 Act of Legislative Drafting and Evaluation of Law B.E. 2562. Under this Act, government agencies are urged to draft, appeal, or amend laws that no longer serve any meaningful purpose, are misaligned with current societal norms, or hinders people’s livelihoods and occupations. The Act also discourages criminal punishments and penalties which are disproportionate and gives authority to the General Assembly of the Supreme Court to veto any legally prescribed punishments deemed inconsistent with the Act’s provisions.

The delisting of Kratom can be viewed as a precursor to the Kratom Plant Bill which, according to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, is almost complete and should be enacted by the time the delisting of the plant takes effect in August 2021. Once the Bill is enacted, it will allow any household to grow Kratom if they are permitted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to process the plants into products.

Despite the relaxation of restrictions of Kratom, its delisting should not be interpreted as a free pass given the numerous requirements for permission under the upcoming Act.

The government also announced on 1 June 2021, that the cabinet has approved draft legislation that regulates the sale and use of Kratom, providing licensing requirements for growing, selling, importing, and exporting Kratom for industrial purposes. This legislation is expected to contain provisions prohibiting the sale of Kratom products to minors, nursing or pregnant women, as well as provisions clarifying requirements for labels, advertisements, and distribution channels. It is also worth noting that restrictions on the use of Kratom as an ingredient for food and beverages are still applicable until amendments permitting its use are made to the Ministry of Public Health Notification Re: Prohibited List of Plants for Use in Food.

Kratom, scientifically known as mitragyna speciosa korthals, is a plant endemic to many parts of Southeast Asia and has been historically used in traditional medicine given its purported health benefits, which range from easing chronic pain to alleviating withdrawal symptoms. However, scientific studies remain deficient since the plant remains illegal in many jurisdictions around the world. The fact that Kratom has been part of Thailand’s traditional cultural norms, and its absence in the list of narcotic substances under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, were cited as the basis for its decriminalization. This will result in the triggering of Section 2 of the Criminal Code, effectively placing a stay on pending sentences, convictions, and ongoing punishments that were brought as a result of Kratom-related activities.

It is advisable to consider expert counsel and assistance when considering any activities related to Kratom, as you will still be subject to various legal and regulatory requirements. Silk Legal will continue to monitor developments on this front and will provide updates when available.

For enquiries regarding Kratom-related matters, please contact us at [email protected] or using the contact form provided on our website: silklegal.com.