It is no understatement to claim that there are few plants subject to such tensions as the coca leaf, either in legal and political circuits, or in the medical and anthropological academic world. Before, during and after its inclusion in the number 1 list of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the controversy on whether the coca leaf is or is not to be considered a narcotic drug, worthy of control by the international institutions and mechanisms, reached apparent irreconcilable positions.
The Andean Council of Coca Leaf Growers (CAPHC), which groups together men and women coca growers from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, met in Puno May 17-18, 1998, to analyze the situation of our people, put a distance between ourselves and the anti-drug policies currently being implemented and propose alternatives that need to be put in practice at the grassroots, demanded from the Andean governments in office today and proposed to the international community.
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.
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 Transnational Institute condemns the decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in their 2007 annual report released today, which calls on countries to ‘abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea’.
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 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.
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.
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.
The following notes are summaries of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs discussions about Bolivia’s coca amendment and denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, taken from the reports of their meetings since September 2010.
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 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.
Many myths surround coca. Every day press accounts around the world use the word coca in their headlines, when in fact they refer to cocaine. TNI's Drugs and Democracy Team exposes the myths and reality surrounding the coca leaf.