Kratom set to be legalised in parts of the country
The Narcotics Control Board is planning to relax the legal prohibition on kratom and permit the consumption of the plant in certain areas.
The move is part of the Justice Ministry's push to reclassify the drug in the narcotics bill after its categorisation as a Type-5 narcotic for the past 78 years.
The initiative was backed by 95% of participants at public hearings on the subject. The majority agreed kratom should be legalised. About 5% expressed concerns over the impact of legalisation on young people, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin said on Thursday.
"The board is also likely to decide on a proposal to legalise kratom in designated locations in due course," he said.
The board's opinion on the new status of kratom matches that of the ministry. Besides the plan for pilot areas, the board will support guidelines to remove kratom from the narcotics list.
The proposals will be forwarded to the cabinet for a final say before being deliberated for enactment in parliament, Mr Somsak said.
An earlier attempt to delist the plant failed over concerns about the illicit kratom-based cocktail known as "4x100".
The plant is also a key ingredient of a specially-formulated "cough syrup", which is considered illegal.
The authorities on Thursday seized 17,400 bottles of the syrup stashed in a house in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Muang district.
Mr Somsak on Thursday stressed strict measures are needed to prevent abuse of kratom.
However, the minister said concerns about its abuse should not get in the way of reclassifying kratom, which would bring both medical and economic benefits.
The plant, known scientifically as Mitragyna speciosa, has long been used as a traditional medicine to treat pain, fever, dysentery and diarrhoea.
Prosecuting each kratom-related case currently costs the government about 20,000 baht, placing a burden on state coffers, Mr Somsak said earlier.