A Culture Born on Kratom: Thailand’s Prohibition Symposium
Kratom planting was widely accepted in Thailand culture until a drastic overhaul to enforce regulations in 1943. The question is: What caused that massive shift in governmental opinion?
The Mitragyna Speciosa (Kratom), a tropical tree native to Thailand and Malaysia, is a surprising relative to the evergreen tree, though bountiful in its applications. It has oval shaped leaves with broad tapers, yellow-flowered offshoots, and winged seeds as adaptations. Generally, the coloration is of dark to light green for the leaves, with the capability of growing 15-50 feet tall. The trees proliferate throughout the native jungles and forests of Thailand. Of course, these attributes fail to highlight the primary reason for its co-evolution for centuries throughout the Malaysian and Thailand ecosystems. This being: Market Utility.
In Thailand, the practice of applying Kratom leaves to medicinal purposes grew from communal usage by nomadic tribes systemic to the jungle environment for its profound opioid chemical properties. Because, as so many importers and foreign nations found; the Mitragyna Speciosa washes ashore through foreign trade and plasters itself as a legitimate supplement product wherever it resides (drastic increase in Kratom imports into the U.S. post 2008). Thus ensuring free enterprise will pick up its market share as a ‘supplement’, similar to coffee, which ironically is in its family.
Luckily, most civilizations from Thailand, which have evidence of Kratom usage, correlate its usage as necessary for ritualistic purposes, medicinal and supplemental (also as anti-diarrheic). This ensured that the human population of Thailand, up until western intervention and competition, took care to proscribe cultural restraints on the growth of the tree and its reciprocal use. Though as governments change, so does popular opinion…
It wasn’t until the eve of August 3, 1943 that Kratom would be banished, when the Thai government passed the Kratom Act 2486 ensuring the government had market control and public control over the planting rights of Mitragyna Speciosa, the clinical applications, import, and export. Was it an epidemic of procurement that needed to cede or rather a desire for control over the market by the Thai government?
As prohibition acts rarely work in a democratized country (see Prohibition Act of 1918), the Thai population continued to placate the plant as a central facet of their culture, even with the looming proscription of harsh penalties varying from jail-sentences to burdening fines by their government. More concerning from the prohibition, was the efficacy of Kratom in its effect on opium dependency, allowing users to drastically reduce addictions to morphine derivatives. Though if you were to look deeper, the Thai government had stake on opium imports, and with users flocking to procure Kratom, it seemed that tax-breaks wouldn’t make it back to the federal government. Thus, the enforcement was necessary. Or was it?
However, the government failed to realize that merely limiting individual planting would not lead to a definitive decrease in natural Mitragyna Speciosa trees. The countryside remained scattered with Kratom trees, and although illegal, the trees remained within arms reach of the population, promoting its illegal usage further. Even adding failure more so, the government promoted initiatives wherein the destruction and deforestation of Kratom trees was promoted. Of course, this too failed to work.
So, as of now, the Thai government has pushed the Kratom tree and its opioid containing leaves, into the status of a Narcotic Level 5, making it illegal to buy, sell, import, or possess. Though, the citizen body has pushed for narcotics reform for quite some time, which brings up the next question. Will Thai culture bring back the legal rights of a tree indigenous to their civilization? Only time will tell, but for now you may buy kratom safely!