The use of Kratom (Mitragyna Speciosa) was banned in 1943. Since then it has been illegal to purchase kratom, distribute or even possess the leaves. However, as the statistics from Thailand would indicate, it is clear that local ethnic pharmacology and custom are ignoring the law. Consequently, at present, the Thai Office of the Narcotics Control Board, is considering decriminalizing Kratom. Advocates point out that the original ban on Kratom in Thailand was economically motivated. It seems that a tax on opium to curtail the opium trade and raise revenue was not accomplishing its goal. Large numbers of opium users were instead switching to using Kratom to avoid the tax. The falling revenues led to passage of the ban on Kratom.
In Malaysia, the possession of Kratom, known locally as “jembalang” was made illegal in 1952 with a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison. At present, there is a movement in Malaysia to add Kratom to the list covered by the Dangerous Drug Act. That change would result in much harsher penalties.
In Japan, studies are underway on the pharmacology and botany of Kratom. The goal of these studies is to achieve the scientific ability to identify biological material from Mitragyna speciosa. That capability would then facilitate regulation of the plant and enable authorities to distinguish it from other psychoactive plant material.
In the United States, Kratom is not a controlled substance, although four states have passed laws banning its sale and possession. The states where Kratom is now illegal are Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, and Vermont. Iowa and New Jersey are considering similar legislation. Kratom is not regulated in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The legal status of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is currently in a state of flux. Research continues on its psychoactive effects as well as on its side-effects. In the meantime, age-old customs and folk-remedies are sometimes in conflict with current law. And current laws around the world seem to reflect social and political realities rather than bio-chemical findings.