As of Tuesday, August 24th, 2021, Thailand no longer considers kratom a narcotic drug. For the first time since 1943, the country's people can grow, sell, or use the plant without penalty.
Thailand has also dropped thousands of legal cases against Thai citizens previously charged with possessing or selling kratom. In response to the new law, Thai prisons are expected to release a total of 121 inmates.
Thailand's kratom legalization follows recent law reform and a near-century of prohibition. For decades, the country had one of the strictest kratom policies in the world. Other Southeast Asian nations, such as Malaysia, only prohibited kratom use. But Thailand has prevented its citizens from even planting kratom since 1943. At the time, Thailand officials believed kratom threatened the profits of their opium market.
But, in 2019, Thailand reversed course by proposing to delist kratom as a narcotic. Their cabinet approved kratom's non-narcotic status in 2020, and that same year, the country began a "personal use trial" to assess the plant's risk of abuse. Eventually, Thailand took further steps by setting the terms for medical kratom legalization, prohibiting sales to youth and pregnant individuals.
Some Thai politicians remain skeptical of kratom's legalization and wary of the risks of abuse. But others, such as Songkhram Buathong, the chief of Thailand's Nam Phu subdistrict, believe the newly legal plant will benefit local economies. Buathong even claimed that kratom grown in the Ban Na San district has higher mitragynine concentrations than other areas, resulting in a more effective end-product for consumers.