Most of the world’s commercial kratom is produced in Indonesia. A ban in Indonesia would be severely detrimental to the kratom supply. Kratom is illegal to sell as a food or medicine domestically in Indonesia, but as it grows wild there, those who use kratom can easily obtain it from native trees. It is legal in Indonesia to grow and harvest kratom for export.
Indonesia’s legal kratom export market has come under attack in recent years. To the best of our knowledge, kratom will remain legal for export at least until 2024. But an eventual ban is not certain. Many Indonesian officials have made statements indicating the desire to keep kratom legal. A decree released by the Minister of Agriculture declared kratom a medicinal plant, which may reverse any previous scheduling of kratom as a narcotic.
The information in this post is sourced from the Indonesian press and agency websites.
Who wants to ban kratom in Indonesia?
The Indonesian equivalent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), wants a ban on kratom. Like the DEA, the BNN is a law enforcement organization. A ban on kratom would justify increased funding and power for the agency, including the power to arrest and incarcerate farmers, vendors, and those to possess kratom, and the power to eradicate kratom trees.
It can be reasonably assumed that the FDA would also like to see a kratom ban in Indonesia. For several years, FDA has imposed an import alert on kratom products from a list of vendors shipping from Indonesia as well as Canada. This gives authorities the right to detain shipments because, in their opinion, kratom is “a new dietary ingredient for which there is inadequate information to provide reasonable assurance that such ingredient does not present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury”. A ban on any edible plant gives the FDA more power to control what the public can and cannot consume. The FDA receives $2.8 million per new drug application, which results in expensive new drugs that in some cases are not very different from inexpensive plant medicines (for example, the FDA approved drug Epidiolex costs a patient with epilepsy $32,500 per year. Epidiolex is cannabidiol (CBD) that can be obtained much more cheaply from the now federally legal hemp plant).
What recent legal actions have taken place concerning kratom in Indonesia?
In November 2019, Indonesian news outlets were announcing that kratom would be fully banned in the country by 2022. The BNN had apparently, in 2017, decided kratom was a Class I Narcotic, and was giving kratom farmers a five year transition period to convert to other crops.
By August 2020, the Potianak Post was reporting:
Kratom farmers and traders in West Kalimantan can breathe a little easier. The reason is, the government through the Decree of the Minister of Agriculture No. 104/2020 concerning Commodities Assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture, has included kratom plants or puric leaves into legal raw materials for drugs.
Essentially the Minister of Agriculture has declared kratom a medicinal plant. A local official in West Kalimatan quoted in the same article said he believed this decree was a replacement for former BNN regulations.
Another official, Deputy Chairman of Commission IV DPR RI Daniel Johan, wrote on his Facebook page, “Congratulations to the kratom farmers, finally kratom is designated as a medicinal or herbal crop commodity category.”
The BNN itself seems to have softened their tone on kratom in the past year, while still insisting on a 2024 ban. In August 2020, the head of the BNN in the West Kalimantan region, Brigadier General Pol Suyatmo, told the Pontianak Tribune that there was no law against kratom, and “further research will still be carried out until the deadline for 2024.” The BNN’s own public relations blog stated in the same month, “The transition period for kratom plants that has been postponed until 2024 should produce regulations that fulfill elements of justice for all parties.”
Why do Indonesians want to keep kratom legal?
Though the BNN is a government agency, the Indonesian government is not a monolithic body with a unanimous opinion on kratom. Many Indonesian government officials, scientists, and citizens want to keep kratom legal.
Kratom is good for the Indonesian economy.
With millions of Americans increasingly consuming a plant that grows wild in Indonesia, there is an economic spike in a country where the average income is the equivalent of 170 US dollars per month. Multiple officials have made the point that kratom is financially helping the regions where it is grown and harvested.
One official quoted by the Post pointed out kratom’s economic value:
Kapuas Hulu Deputy Regent (Wabup) Antonius L. Ain Pamero revealed, as a commodity that has been helping to support the economy of the people in this district, the local government continues to strive to encourage the Central Government to seriously pay attention to kratom plants managed by the community
Deputy Chairman Dohan told the Post “it is estimated that the export potential of this kratom plant can reach Rp. 7 trillion [about USD $484 million] a year, [and] this is only to the United States.”
Eradicating kratom trees would be harmful to the environment.
Millions of native kratom trees grow in Indonesia. A ban on kratom would mean eradicating them all. In November 2020, Alue Dohong, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Forestry, told the Post that “because it is an endemic plant and is characteristic of the area, we encourage it to remain there, not to be destroyed.”
The governor of Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, Kalbar Sutarmidji, asked the Indonesian president not to ban kratom. In addition to the economic benefits, two national parks in that province, he said, “have been designated as (areas) for the lungs of the world.”
Kratom will serve as a beneficial medicine worldwide.
Since kratom was declared a medicinal plant in Indonesia in 2020, multiple officials have been calling for pharmaceutical studies. Deputy Minister Dohong said that kratom “has the potential in the future to become an extraordinary pharmaceutical product in Indonesia”. Since last August, the Indonesian press has focused on kratom’s beneficial properties, rather than adopting a “drug scare” theme common in the American media. The Post interviewed Tanjungpura University chemistry professor Dr. Thamrin Usman, who said that though 7-hydroxymitragynine has narcotic-like properties, kratom can be used for its analgesic and stimulant properties that are “beneficial to mankind”.
The Research and Development Agency of West Kalimantan Province is conducting ongoing research into kratom “both as an increase in the regional economy and society as well as its pharmaceutical benefits for the health of the human body”. The agency is also looking to patent kratom in Indonesia to “facilitate kratom in obtaining Intellectual Property Rights as native plants”. As recently as March 2021, this group is looking to expand both their team and their research efforts into kratom.