In 2021, Thailand passed the updated Narcotics Act (No. 8) B.E. 2564 (2021), which removed kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) from the list of prohibited substances, eliminated kratom-related offenses on the basis that its consumption is part of traditional Thai cultural norms, and allowed possession and consumption.
On August 26, 2022, Thailand published the Kratom Plant Act B.E. 2565 (2022) in the Government Gazette, and the law came into effect the following day. With the aim of encouraging economic activity related to kratom, the act regulates the trade, sale, consumption, study, and advertising of kratom leaves (alone or as an ingredient in food) in Thailand.
Importing and Exporting Kratom Leaves
Importing and exporting kratom leaves without obtaining a license from the secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) is prohibited under the Kratom Plant Act. Eligible license recipients include:
- Thai nationals over twenty years old and residing in Thailand;
- Juristic persons registered under Thai law;
- Community enterprises under the law; and
- Government agencies.
A license is valid for five years, and importers and exporters must still notify the NCB when importing or exporting kratom leaves. An exception to the licensing requirement is bringing kratom leaves in and out of Thailand for personal consumption, therapy, and treatment of an illness. The amounts allowed for international travel are to be specified in ministerial regulations. If the amount of the kratom leaves exceeds this allowance, the transport will be considered importing or exporting of kratom leaves, triggering the licensing requirements described above.
Violation of these requirements is subject to imprisonment for up to one year, a maximum fine of THB 100,000, or both.
The Kratom Plant Act also allows the sale of kratom leaves alone or as an ingredient in food, subject to certain conditions. Under the law, sales of kratom include selling, dispensing, distributing, exchanging, or giving the substance to others. The laws measures pertaining to this are intended to protect people from the potential harm of consuming or misusing kratom.
It is prohibited to sell kratom leaves or food that contains kratom leaves as an ingredient to persons under 18 years old, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. The law also authorizes ministers of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health to prohibit selling kratom to additional persons. Sellers must post an announcement at their place of sale (including electronic points of sale) noting the prohibition on selling kratom to these parties. Violating one of these prohibitions or not posting the required announcement or notice is punishable by a fine of up to THB 30,000.
There are two exceptions. Selling to the restricted persons mentioned above may be allowed only if done for medical or educational purposes, defined specifically as follows:
- Treatment of disease, therapy, or relief of illness under the supervision of a medical practitioner, dental practitioner, Thai traditional medicine practitioner, or traditional medical professional under the law related to the Thai traditional medical profession; or
- Study, analysis, or research carried out by a government agency that is responsible for conducting medical, pharmaceutical, or scientific research or education, or providing medical, pharmaceutical, or scientific services for the benefit of medical or pharmaceutical, Thai Red Cross Society, or educational institutions.
Besides the prohibitions on selling to certain parties, some locations and points of sale are also off limits for selling kratom leaves or food containing kratom leaves. Kratom leaves by themselves may not be sold in educational institutions, dormitories, parks, zoos, amusement parks, vending machines, or other places specified in announcements by ministers of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health. Violations are subject to a fine of up to THB 50,000—and up to twice that (i.e., THB 100,000) if the sale is to one of the prohibited parties mentioned above.
While consumption of kratom is now legal following its removal from the narcotics list, it is prohibited to consume kratom leaves mixed with narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, dangerous substances, or any other substance specified by the Ministry of Justice, except when done for the specific medical or education purposes given above. Violation is subject to a maximum fine of THB 50,000.
Advertising or promoting the consumption of kratom leaves mixed with narcotics or psychotropic substances, drugs and dangerous substances, or other designated substances is also prohibited under the Kratom Plant Act. This is a comprehensive ban on inducing people to consume any of these kratom-containing mixtures, covering advertisement or any type of marketing communication by means of public relations, news, publishing promotion, point-of-sale displays, direct marketing, sales, and online or computer advertising. Violations of this ban are subject to imprisonment for up to two years, a maximum fine of THB 200,000, or both.
Similarly, convincing others (including “encouraging, deceiving, intimidating, improperly influencing, or forcing”) to consume kratom leaves mixed with narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, dangerous substances, or other designated substances is also prohibited. Violations of this prohibition are subject to imprisonment for up to one year, a maximum fine of THB 100,000, or both. Penalties can be doubled if the violation is committed against persons under age 18, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or any other person designated by the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Public Health, for a maximum sentence of imprisonment for two years and a fine of THB 200,000.
Overall, the Kratom Plant Act lays out a general framework that regulates importing and exporting kratom leaves and supervises the sale, consumption, advertising, and misuse of kratom leaves and food containing kratom leaves. However, there are still additional specific restrictions in various regulations or announcements from the NCB, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Health, and other relevant agencies.
Furthermore, using kratom leaves in certain products can trigger other regulations. For example, using kratom leaves as raw materials or components of herbal products, drugs, and cosmetics may be subject to specific laws such as the Herbal Product Act, Drugs Act, or Cosmetics Act. The relevant provisions under the specific legislation will still apply—even though their restrictions and requirements could differ from those in the Kratom Plant Act.
Consequently, it is advised to seek local expert counsel before starting any business involving kratom, as it is still subject to numerous restrictions and requirements.