This article examines alternatives to the War on Drugs through a comparative analysis of attitudes toward coca and cocaine in South America. Two regions of traditional coca use and cultivation -- northwest Amazonas state in Brazil and the department of Cusco in Peru -- are compared to highlight the differences between Peruvian and Brazilian attitudes toward coca and ethnic identity.
Coca appears to be a useful treatment for various gastro-intestinal ailments, motion sickness, and laryngeal fatigue. It can be an adjunct in programs of weight reduction and physical fitness and may be a fast-acting antidepressant. It is of value in treating dependence on stronger stimulants.
The INCB, rather than making harsh judgements based on a selective choice of outdated treaty articles, should use its mandate more constructively and help draw attention to the inherent contradictions in the current treaty system with regard to how plants, plant-based raw materials and traditional uses are treated.
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.
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.
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.
Cocaleros in Bolivia threathen to occupy the installations of the United Nations in the country as well as those of Coca Cola in El Alto in protest against the decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to "abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea," according to the newspaper La Razón.
Cocaine can easily be extracted from coca leaves / Coca leaves contain no cocaine
To some people, “cocaine can easily be extracted from coca leaves”, to others, "coca leaves contain no cocaine". The extreme positions in this discussion have an even longer and more ideologically charged genealogy than those in the coca and nutrition debate.
Recently, TNI put online the Report of the Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf, that was published in 1950 and provided the rationale for the inclusion of the coca leaf in the 1961 Single Convention. The report is difficult to find nowadays. A classic article, "The New Politics of Coca", by Andrew Weil, published in The New Yorker (May l5, 1995) describes how the chairman of the Commission Howard B. Fonda approached the study.
The year 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the bedrock of the current UN drug control system. TNI will host a side event at the 54th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Several speakers will critically examine the significance and shortcomings of the Convention, explain how plants and traditional use are treated under its provisions, and discuss the current state of affairs of Bolivia's amendment proposal on coca chewing.
In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken. A decision in the World Health Assembly banned the publication of the study. The US representative threatened that "if WHO activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programmes should be curtailed". This led to the decision to discontinue publication.
The use of coca is symptomatic of hunger and malnutrition / Coca is a solution to the world’s hunger problem
While for some people, “the use of coca is symptomatic of hunger and malnutrition”, others state the opposite saying that “coca is a solution to the world’s hunger problem”. It has long been common among superficial observers to confuse the use of coca with an inadequate diet, and thus to claim that coca is in some specific sense responsible for malnutrition among the Andean population. At the opposite extreme, there exists an increasingly vocal lobby, which defends the use of coca not so much as a stimulant, but as a food supplement, and sometimes engages in extravagant claims regarding coca’s dietary benefits.
In 1961 the coca leaf was listed on Schedule I of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs together with cocaine and heroin. The inclusion of coca has caused much harm to the Andean region and a historical correction is long overdue, for the sake of further conflict prevention and out of respect for the Andean culture. The rationale for including the coca leaf in the 1961 Single Convention is mainly rooted in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Coca Leaf from May 1950 The report was requested of the United Nations by the permanent representative of Peru that was prepared by a commission that visited Bolivia and Peru briefly in 1949.
The international legal status of the coca leaf and of its traditional uses in the Andes has long been ambiguous and contested. While the International Narcotics Control Board in 1994 stated its intention to remove those ambiguities, it has instead moved towards a more intolerant criticism of policies carried out by countries like Bolivia in their renewed promotion of coca.
Coca farmers should be identified as drug traffickers / Coca farmers only grow coca to satisfy traditional indigenous uses
It is in the social realm that the attitudes surrounding coca sometimes find their most intransigent expressions, with extreme positions underpinned by deeply ingrained cultural prejudice. Some say "coca farmers should be identified as drug traffickers", others, "coca farmers only grow coca to satisfy traditional indigeous uses"Further reading: Coca Myths, Drugs & Conflict Debate Papers 17, June 2009