Although human populations have used fresh kratom for thousands of years, the legality of kratom is contested in today’s modern world. Some countries have imposed restrictions on how their citizens can access kratom, while others have banned the plant entirely.
The changing tides of kratom legality are influenced by many factors. Emerging scientific information, global trade, and political interests all continue to impact consumer access to the plant. While we can’t know kratom’s legal future for certain, one thing is clear: Change is inevitable.
The Legality of Kratom in Thailand
Southeast Asia is the indigenous habitat of the kratom tree, but it’s also home to some of the strictest kratom legality by country. Despite growing naturally within the borders of Malaysia, Vietnam, and other neighboring countries, various ASEAN nations have introduced measures to penalize kratom traders and the people that use it.
In Thailand — where kratom is highly popular — the Thai government has classified kratom as a Category Five narcotic and harshly penalized its citizens for distributing or possessing the plant since the Thailand kratom ban in 1979.
However, in 2018, the country became the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize medicinal kratom. Even more promising news arrived in January 2020 when Thailand’s Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin announced that the legality of kratom could be changing. For the first time since 1979, Thailand is considering reclassifying kratom as a non-narcotic which would drastically lessen the criminal punishments associated with the plant. If all goes to plan, Thailand’s new kratom legislation should go into effect by June of 2020, according to Thepsutin.
Thailand is also working to increase the kratom personal possession limits for Thai citizens. Under the new policy, Thailand’s legality of kratom would permit citizens to possess up to twenty kratom leaves without penalty. However, Thepthai Senpong, a Democrat Party MP who is responsible for drug-related policies in Thailand, noted that he’d be consulting the opinions of Thai citizens in the South where kratom use is more common before presenting the policy to Thailand’s House of Representatives.
Kratom Legality by Country: United States
Outside of Southeast Asia, the United States remains one of kratom’s most hotly-contested legal battlegrounds. Although the country’s FDA and DEA ultimately failed to introduce a federal ban, the legality of kratom varies on a state-by-state and even city-by-city basis in the USA. In 2020, that trend has continued, with changing legislation in Maryland, Mississippi, and elsewhere.
Maryland legislators introduced a kratom ban bill in January 2020. The bill — MD SB147 — began as a ban of kratom’s primary alkaloids, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine. However, after hearing the testimonies of Maryland kratom advocates and representatives of the American Kratom Association (AKA), Maryland state legislators opted to replace the potential ban with an under-21 age restriction.
According to the AKA, Maryland’s state legislators have also expressed interest in enacting other components of the AKA’s Kratom Consumer Protection Act throughout the state. These new laws would help solidify the legality of kratom by introducing quality control standards and deterring kratom product adulteration in the interest of protecting Maryland’s kratom consumers.
With 28 Mississippian counties and cities prohibiting the possession and/or sale of kratom in 2019, Mississippi is one state where kratom’s legal status is fiercely contested. However, the legal tension surrounding kratom finally came to a head earlier in 2020 when Mississippi state legislators proposed two kratom ban bills.
Both bills — MS HB1284 and MS SB2084 — aimed to alter the legality of kratom throughout Mississippi by classifying kratom as a Schedule I drug. If passed, these bills would’ve introduced harsh, zero-tolerance legal punishments for possessing, distributing, or manufacturing kratom products.
Fortunately, for now, it seems that Mississippi’s state laws will reflect the kratom legality of its county. Both bills “died in committee,” meaning that Mississippi lawmakers failed to return the bill to the house for further action. Meanwhile, the American Kratom Association (AKA) has announced that they’re collaborating with Mississippi lawmakers to keep kratom legal statewide.
In Oregon, the legality of kratom seems to be evolving for the better. On February 12th, 2020, the Oregon state legislature passed HB 4013, a version of the AKA’s Kratom Consumer Protection Act.
According to the bill, members of various Oregon state organizations will work with representatives of the kratom industry to determine how the plant will be regulated throughout the state. The new legislation also mandates that kratom buyers must be at least 21 years old and introduces punitive measures for those selling kratom to under-aged buyers.
If you would like to fight to keep kratom legal in the United States, consider donating to reputable advocacy organizations such as the American Kratom Association (AKA) to help continue the battle against banning kratom.
Kratom Legality in France
For decades, the legality of kratom in France was left undisturbed by lawmakers. Citizens of France could possess and distribute the plant without encountering any legal difficulties.
However, on January 1st, 2020, the country reversed its position on the plant and added the plant to its list of prohibited substances. Now, citizens are unable to buy, sell, or possess kratom throughout France. Europe is already home to some of the most mixed kratom legality by country, where the plant is banned across Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, and several other nations.
The Future of Kratom Legality
Although kratom’s legal fate continues to be wildly unpredictable, 2020 could be a beneficial year for the plant. With Thailand planning to reclassify kratom as a non-narcotic, other Southeast Asian nations could follow suit. Although proposed kratom bans continue to surface in the United States, the American Kratom Association seems committed to protecting safe and legal access for American consumers.
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