Kratom was officially discovered in the early 1800s by a dutch settler who stumbled across the plant which grows wild in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Kratom is widely used in Thailand and is still commonly available. To the indigenous people where the plant grows naturally, its use is accepted as common place with no stigma or discriminatory connotation attached.
On August 3, 1943, the Thai government passed the Kratom Act 2486 making it illegal to plant the kratom tree and requiring that all existing trees be demolished. In a second attempt to institute government regulation upon the majority of the Thai population who regularly use kratom, the Thai government scheduled kratom as a category 5 (the least punitive category) substance in the Narcotic Act of 1979, grouping it with both cannabis and magic mushrooms.
Today, Thai officials consider attempts at restricting kratom use, which has been a part of Thai culture without negative consequence for hundreds of years, both unnecessary and faulty. A 2010 proposal from the Thai Office of Narcotics Control Board was released in an effort to both formally and publically decriminalize kratom throughout all of Thailand recognizing it as a traditional part of Thai heritage and culture. Among one of the most interesting revelations of the ONCB’s report was something that most students of kratom history have long suspected – kratom was banned in Thailand not for health or public safety reasons but for economic reasons. In the decades preceding the 1943 Kratom Act (the government’s first attempt to control the plant), the Thai government was collecting substantial tax revenue from the abundantly lucrative opium trade. The following statement is from the ONCB report:
“In Thailand, kratom was first scheduled for control in 1943 under the Kratom Act. At the time, the government was levying taxes from users and shops involved in the opium trade. However, the launch of the Greater East Asia War in 1942 and declining revenues from the opium trade pushed the Thai government into action to curb and suppress competition in the opium market by making kratom illegal.”
There is no federal regulation on kratom within the United States. It is currently legal in every state with the exception of Indiana and Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Rhode Island , Washington D.C. , Vermont, Sarasota County Florida, and San Diego CA. The Indiana legislature passed HB1196 in 2012, within which kratom was not specifically mentioned; but, two of its main alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitraginine, were mentioned. The primary purpose of the bill was to combat synthetic drug use. Kratom being neither synthetic nor a drug made its inclusion in the bill a clear point for contention. Petitioners from Change.org have sought the removal of the kratom alkaloids from the list of banned substances by bringing its faulty classification to the attention of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. This approach successfully stopped the potential ban of kratom in Louisiana when a similar bill was proposed which also included alkaloids from the plant. A large group of kratom supporters came out against the ban and educated their legislative representatives through emails and petitions about the kratom plant. The Louisiana legislature then elected to desist their efforts to ban the plant and merely made it a requirement that purchasers of kratom be at least 18 years of age.