Cocaine vs Coca:
The US Tells Bolivia ‘We Abuse It, So You Can’t Use It’

No better way to start off the new year than with a bit of good old-fashioned American hypocrisy.

The US has denied Bolivia’s request to the United Nations that it’s people be allowed their ancestral practice of chewing coca leaves. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was petitioning to amend the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which currently makes criminals of those who maintain the coca tradition.

Not only is this stance hypocritical, as the US currently has exceptions to its own laws for native peoples within the US to use (otherwise illegal) psychoactive plants (ie. peyote) for religious purposes; it is blatantly denying the indigenous peoples of other countries their rights.

With many nations, including most of those in South America, having explicitly supported Bolivia’s proposal to the UN – it is the US that has blocked the way.

Maybe we should start by asking why the coca leaf was ever criminalized in the first place. Coca has been used ritually and medicinally by cultures of the Andes and Amazon for millennia. Archaeologists have found evidence that coca leaves were being chewed in Peru at least 8,000 years ago.

The coca leaf itself has many uses, whether cultural, medicinal or spiritual. As Morales rightly notes, coca leaf chewing “helps mitigate the sensation of hunger, offers energy during long days of labour and helps counter altitude sickness. Unlike nicotine or caffeine, it causes no harm to human health nor addiction or altered state, and it is effective in the struggle against obesity, a major problem in many modern societies.” Not to mention the fact that the coca leaf only contains 1% of the alkaloid used to make cocaine.

The US justifies its stance on the grounds that coca is the raw material for making cocaine. This would seem to imply that American policy should take precedent over native Bolivian culture, even in Bolivia.

All this as President Obama finally signs the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is meant to protect ‘cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.’ The US stance on this is discriminatory, given that coca use is so deeply rooted in the indigenous culture of the Andes.

The irony is that not only does the US recognize the cultural rights of its own native populations to use certain psychoactive plants, but the US State Department even recommends coca for US travelers visiting Bolivia to avoid altitude sickness. Oops!

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Posted: February 10th, 2011
Categories: Drugs, Politics
Tags: , , , , ,
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Comment from Douglas Willinger - February 12, 2011 at 12:38 am

“Maybe we should start by asking why the coca leaf was ever criminalized in the first place….”

It is all about the policies of agrilcultural mercantilism started via the USDA of William Randolph Hearst collaborator Harvey Washington Wiley to stop the foreign Coca market threat to Tobacco:

http://freedomofmedicineanddiet.blogspot.com/2011/01/drug-statutes-infinitely-worse-than.html

(see the links within)

Comment from thedailytransmission - February 12, 2011 at 3:08 am

Very interesting and exactly the history we all need to be taught about this issue. Excellent blog, well done sir!

Comment from Douglas Willinger - February 12, 2011 at 6:05 am

Thanks- Billions of $$$ could be saved by ending this market perversion and let the problem solve itself, yet the political situation remains bottlenecked:

http://freedomofmedicineanddiet.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html

http://freedomofmedicineanddiet.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html

Comment from JORGE V NIETO BERGHUSEN - August 20, 2011 at 10:08 pm

THE USE OF COCA LEAF TEA COULD VERY BENEFICIAL TO OVERCAME OBISITY THE COCA TEA HAS TH ABILITY OF REDUCED THE TOXIC LIPIDS OUT OF YOUR BODY I DO NOT KNOW WHY PEOPLE AND INSITUTIONS THAT NEVER EXPIRENCED THE USED OF COCA LEAVES IN THIR LIFE TIMES DARE TO JUDGE A PLANT THAT COULD,BE SO CRITICAL INSOLVING OBISITY STRUGGLES IN THE WORLD MAYBE GOD PUT THIS PLANT ON EARTH FOR THIS MERLY PURPOSES,BUT HIDDEN ECONOMICAL FACTS,DOES NO ALLOW PEOPLE TO USE THISPLANT TO SOLVE THEIR OBISITY PROBLEMS

Comment from thedailytransmission - September 15, 2011 at 8:33 am

Jorge you’re absolutely right I’m sure it could! A lot of mother nature’s remedies are currently illegal or underused due to ignorance. It is outrageous. We need to bring coca back!