Why peasants from certain regions of the world cultivate the three plants – coca leaves, cannabis and opium poppy – that the international conventions have declared to be illicit? That was the essential question that was discussed at the First Global Forum of Producers of Crops Declared to be Illicit (FMPCDI), that took place in El Prat de Llobregat near Barcelona on January 29-31, 2009.
On 12 June 2009, TNI submited a memorandum to the 'House of Commons Select Committee on the cocaine trade' to allow the coca leaf in its natural form on the UK market, as a mild stimulant and as an infusion. The leaf is now still classified along with cocaine and heroin as a Class A drug.
On Monday the 18th, at the UN-ECOSOC session in New York, elections took place for six members of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The Board consists of only 13 members, so almost half of this UN body was up for election. Taking a look at the INCB-section on our website quickly reveals our troubled history with this ‘quasi-judicial’ and supposedly independent body that monitors compliance with the UN drug control treaties.
In March 2009, Evo Morales sent his formal request to the Secretary General Bang Ki Moon to delete articles 49(c) and 49(e) of the 1961 UN Single Convention that explicitly mention that "coca leaf chewing must be abolished with twenty-five years from the coming into force of this Convention" (which happened in December 1964). The request will be discussed on Thursday, 30 July, at the annual meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Putting this request on the ECOSOC agenda is a required procedure for amendment proposals. It is under Agenda item 14 (d), Narcotic drugs, General Segment (see the Note of Secretary General).
A clear divide in drug control approaches became apparent at the end of the High Level Segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on March 11-12 in Vienna, where countries gathered to review to progress since the 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) and set a framework for the next 10 years through a Political Declaration and Plan of Action.
At one side of the divide a growing number of countries opt for pragmatic evidence-based harm reduction policies, while at the other side countries desperately cling to a zero tolerance approach that has failed to produce any significant result the past decade. Despite the diplomatic façade, the conclusion cannot be otherwise that the Vienna consensus on drug control that has paralysed progress in international drug control for decades, has fallen apart.
The Drug War has failed. After more than 20 years of tirelessly pushing for the same policy, the efforts have not been able to bring the expanding illicit drug markets under control and instead have led to an unmanageable crisis in the judicial and penitentiary systems, human rights violations, the consolidation of criminal networks and the marginalization of drug users who are pushed out of reach of health care services. For these reasons, some Latin American countries are starting to explore a more effective and honest drug policy.
When we think of people like Pope Paul VI, the Queen of Spain or Britain’s Princess Anne, most of us do not think of them as criminals. But that is what they are, under the current international drug law. Their crime? They all sipped coca tea on their arrival to the Bolivian capital La Paz.
A similar version was published as an OpEd in El Tiempo, June 26, 2009
See also: Coca Myths, Drugs & Conflict Debate Papers 17, June 2009
On July 30th the Bolivian proposal to amend the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by deleting the obligation to abolish the chewingof coca leaf was on the ECOSOC agenda (UN Social and Economic Council). After informal negotiations, the 54 members of ECOSOC decided unanimously to pass the amendment proposal on to the Parties of the Convention for their consideration. They now have 18 months to express any objections or comments on the Bolivian request.
The attached summary report addresses the myths that surround the coca leaf and is presented to the Committee members in order to allow them to make an evidence-based judgement on its current legal status and on the potential usefulness of coca in its natural form, including in the UK context.
President Barack Obama should recognize traditional uses of the coca leaf because not all production becomes cocaine, Bolivian President Evo Morales said. Morales, a former coca farmer, also called on participants at a United Nations drug policy meeting in Vienna to lift a ban on coca for some uses.
The use of coca produces a form of drug dependence / The use of coca will cure dependence on cocaine and crack
To some people, “the use of coca produces a form of drug dependence”, to others “the use of coca will cure dependence on cocaine and crack”. And, like a Peruvian expert added ironically in 1952, there is a third position, that of the members of the UN who maintain that it is not an addiction, but should be treated as such since it is a pernicious habit. The absence of scientific backing did not prevent the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence from ruling twice, in 1952 and 1953, that coca chewing should indeed be considered a form of “cocainism”.
In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs placed the coca leaf in the same category with cocaine — thus promoting the false notion that the coca leaf is a narcotic — and ordered that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished within 25 years from the coming into force of this convention.” Bolivia signed the convention in 1976, during the brutal dictatorship of Col. Hugo Banzer, and the 25-year deadline expired in 2001. Mistakes are an unavoidable part of human history, but sometimes we have the opportunity to correct them. It is time for the international community to reverse its misguided policy toward the coca leaf.
On March 12, 2009, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, sent a letter sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, requesting the suspension of the paragraphs 1c and 2e of Article 49 of 1961 UN Single Convention that prohibit the traditional chewing of coca leaf.
Coca cultivation is devastating the rainforest / Coca is an ideal crop for poor soils in the tropics and will be cultivated everywhere once declared legal
Since at least the 1980s, there has been a consistent effort to link the growing of coca with widespread environmental degradation, baptized recently by the Colombian government as “ecocide”. Others state that "coca is an ideal crop for poor soils in the tropics".
The first day at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was marked by the announcement of President Evo Morales of Bolivia that he would start the process to remove the coca leaf from the 1961 Single Convention as well as the suspension of the paragraphs of that convention that prohibit the traditional chewing of coca leaf. Holding up a coca leaf in front of delegates at the UN summit on drugs he underlined his demand.
The present issue of Drugs & Conflict intends to debunk and disentangle the most prominent myths surrounding the coca leaf. It aims to clear the air and help steer the debate towards a more evidence-based judgement of the issues.
When we think of people like Pope Paul VI, the Queen of Spain or Britain’s Princess Anne, most of us do not think of them as criminals. But that is what they are, under the current international drug law. Their crime? They all sipped coca tea on their arrival to the Bolivian capital La Paz. Bolivia is planning to submit a formal request to the UN to declassify coca as a narcotic drug, emphasizing in its arguments the traditional uses, such as the chewing of the leaf.
Peter Reuter (RAND), Franz Trautmann (Trimbos Institute) (eds.)
15 March 2009
This report commissioned by the European Commission, found no evidence that the global drug problem has been reduced during the period from 1998 to 2007 – the primary target of the 1998 UNGASS, which aimed to significantly reduce the global illicit drugs problem by 2008 through international cooperation and measures in the field of drug supply and drug demand reduction. Broadly speaking the situation has improved a little in some of the richer countries, while for others it worsened, and for some of those it worsened sharply and substantially', among which are a few large developing or transitional countries. Given the limitations of the data, a fair judgment is that the problem became somewhat more severe.
The last of the four ‘round tables’ of the high-level segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was devoted to the broad issue of Countering illicit drug traffic and supply, and alternative development. TNI had been nominated by the Vienna NGO Committee to give a statement on the issue of Alternative Development (AD), being one of the few member NGOs with a track record on this issue and having actively participated in the Beyond 2008 initiative, including the negotiations at the July NGO forum to reach consensus on the text of a paragraph on AD in the final declaration. This is our impression of the event.