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Thailand Legalizing Opioid-Like Herb Spurs Rush of Online Sales

By Prim Chuwiruch

Mukminin Arief, owner of Butterfly Botanical, holds kratum in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, on Saturday, May 5, 2018. Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg
  • Vendors sell painkiller on social media after liberalization
  • Thai kratom dealers may become major suppliers to U.S. market

Entrepreneur Sittichai Komam didn’t waste time once Thailand in late August decriminalized kratom, a coffee-like plant native to Southeast Asia that can give users a mild high. Within hours, Sittichai was on Facebook selling freshly picked kratom leaves, sourced from his neighborhood in southern Thailand, to local consumers.

Popular in the U.S., where advocates say it’s an opioid alternative but critics say it’s a dangerous drug, kratom is the latest herb the Thai government has legalized for production. Though producers can only sell domestically for now, Thailand has plans to allow exports, potentially enabling local dealers to become suppliers to the U.S., the world’s most lucrative market.

“A lot of the older villagers kept kratom trees to harvest and eat its leaves,” Sittichai, 31, said. “After it became legal, I started collecting and buying the leaves to help them earn extra income.”

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— © Copyright Bloomberg 2021-09-13

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