Coca is Not Cocaine; Let the Farmers Be

From the award winning Canadian magazine Walrus: An audio photo essay about the coca farmers in Bolivia and their fight, assisted by the country's President Evo Morales, to keep cultivating the leaf for legal purposes.

Besides being a symbol of Bolivia's indigenous culture, the coca leaf is considered a cure for many ailments and an important source of work for farmers in this poor South American country.

Coca is not cocaine. However, the leaf is the main ingredient for the drug, and the United States and the United Nations would like to see the plant completely eradicated.


Those are fighting words in Bolivia, where coca leaves have been grown and used in their natural form for thousands of years.

....Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, is a former coca grower who has pushed for an increase in the cultivation and legal uses of coca — while still clamping down on the illegal ones.

His new policy, "Coca Yes, Cocaine No." Again, the slideshow is here.

Background on Evo Morales and his efforts to keep coca growing legal is here .

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    My focus (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by AnninCA on Thu May 08, 2008 at 12:13:59 PM EST
    on drug abuse and alcohol is rehabilitation.  We are doing nothing, absolutely nothing, after years of the law and order crowd.

    I know the "war on drugs" in other countries is stupid, ineffectual, and pointless.  Waste of money.

    What's insane is having no addiction recovery programs active in the jails/prisons/streets.

    That's nuts.  

    Right now, AA can help about 10% who walk in the doors.  The more often they walk in, the more likely they are to get real help.  Now, if some 12-step program where you toss a buck in the basket can help that many people, then the idea that the drug addict is hopeless and just lock them up or try to burn down the supply is simply not rational thinking.

    Recovery efforts are truly cheap.  Best deal in town.  And the AA model works as well as expensive rehabs.  

    So what the heck?

    There are so many (none / 0) (#9)
    by Helen8 on Thu May 08, 2008 at 01:10:48 PM EST
    reasons to end the drug war, but that fact that the same governments who throw users and sellers in jail for decades are the ones whose officials facilitate the transport and sale. That just makes me crazy and that includes the USA with CIA drug running.

    what about the poppy (none / 0) (#1)
    by jjsmoof on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:23:00 AM EST
    I don't see US/UN going after the poppy plants in Afghanistan.  This is ridiculous.

    That doesn't make sense (none / 0) (#2)
    by katmandu on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:30:14 AM EST
    Isn't codeine from the coca leaf?
    Why eradicate the plant? Why not buy it
    and make cheaper pain killers from it?
    Win-win situation all around.  The farmers
    have a cash crop, and when supply increases,
    prescription prices decrease.
    Of course, I'm no pharmacist.  I may be
    totally off on this.
    Didn't Coca Cola have coca water in it for a
    mild stimulant in its beginning?

    That is just the beginning (none / 0) (#10)
    by Helen8 on Thu May 08, 2008 at 01:14:01 PM EST
    of what doesn't make sense!

    God forbid anyone have physical pleasure or a buzz or pain-relief (think of poor Job, he suffered for god!) or even a mild stimulant.

    Outlawing plants is really insane.


    Codeine (none / 0) (#11)
    by Patrick on Thu May 08, 2008 at 02:20:31 PM EST
    is an opium derivative, not from the coca plant.  Coca-cola still uses de-cocanized coca leaves as a flavor for their soda.  Aside from the medical uses for cocaine (It is a schedule II controlled substance) there are legitimate reasons to produce coca plants.  

    As Usual (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:40:00 AM EST
    We go around the world 'fixing it' in order to maintain the fantasy that the rest of the world is the source of all our problems.  

    Thanks for pointing this out... (none / 0) (#4)
    by someTV on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:51:43 AM EST
    Evo and his leaf at the UN here.
    If we make drugs legal, what will the judges lawyers cops prison guards cartel leaders do for a living?

    coca ignorance (none / 0) (#5)
    by Prabhata on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:56:13 AM EST
    When hiking in Peru I got sick due to the altitude changes, the first remedy I was introduced was a tea with coca leaves. Also when we started hikes, because we would change altitudes, I was given coca leaves to chew and minimize altitude change sickness.  One can buy coca leaves anywhere in Peru because of its medicinal properties.  Coca leaves will not be eradicated any more than BO will deny Reverend Wright who is like family to him.

    The idea of making plants illegal... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Thu May 08, 2008 at 12:10:50 PM EST
    ...has always seemed kind of silly to me.

    Legalize it. Tax it. Treat it. (none / 0) (#8)
    by dianem on Thu May 08, 2008 at 12:17:56 PM EST
    I don't really know why we make drug use illegal to begin with. The bad things from drugs come from two places. The inherent risk to oneself, which is a personal decision, and the illegality of drugs, which effects our entire society. We could wipe out much of the problem by taxing drugs and then using the proceeds to promote drug abstinence and treatment programs. And before anybody says that isn't possible: cigarettes are highly addictive and widely socially accpetable, and yet we have managed to dramatically reduce smoking among Americans with taxes and marketing. Drugs will not magically become acceptable if they are made legal (try to imagine a work associate sneaking out from a meeting for a cocaine break), so the marketing will have a head start.

    I've been dying to try... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Thu May 08, 2008 at 03:02:28 PM EST
    chewing on some coca leaves...but unfortunately my nanny (Uncle Sam) says no dice.  And I guess my friends in the black market would rather inport the infinitely more profitable cocaine.

    A bummer all around.

    Take a trip (none / 0) (#13)
    by Patrick on Thu May 08, 2008 at 03:10:13 PM EST
    on down to Peru, climb the Andes and kick it for a while.  

    I'd love to.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Thu May 08, 2008 at 03:20:43 PM EST
    shame you gotta travel a couple thousand miles for a taste of a particular brand of freedom, dontcha think?

    Coca leaves would be a big hit at multi-day poker tournaments...and might put a hurtin' on Red Bull stock:)


    Well Brother (none / 0) (#15)
    by Patrick on Thu May 08, 2008 at 06:42:08 PM EST
    This is one of those issues where we're never gonna see eye to eye, but I'll say one thing about you, you're consistent and I can admire that.  

    Likewise you know... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:01:18 PM EST
    And what do I know bro...maybe the country would go to hell in a handbasket if I could buy coca leaves at the liquor store...I just don't think so, and if we can be a little more free what the heck:)

    Ummm no... Coca is to cocaine... (none / 0) (#17)
    by Exeter on Thu May 08, 2008 at 11:15:54 PM EST
    ... what coffee beans are to coffee.  I don't think that is a reasonable argument.  As for the larger issue, I'm fine with pot being legalized, but cocaine is pretty addictive.

    So is tobacco.... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri May 09, 2008 at 08:28:07 AM EST
    potential addiction is no reason to prohibit a substance.

    I know people who can do a line or two on Friday night and not touch the stuff for months, I know others who can't do a line or two on Friday night without going on a 3 day bender.  Everybody is different.


    That's true... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Exeter on Fri May 09, 2008 at 09:37:23 AM EST
    I hear what you're saying and partially agree, but crack has been devastating to poor areas and Meth is starting to be as well. I don't think making it legal, increasing access, and making it cheaper, will help the problem.

    It won't help the addiction problem.... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Fri May 09, 2008 at 09:51:59 AM EST
    but it sure would help the crimes associated with addiction problem.  And the prison problem.  And the tyranny problem.  

    I hear what you're saying...addiction is nasty, no argument here.  I know all about it with an alcoholic in the family.  I just think the tyranny of prohibition is nastier.


    Yeah, you're probably right -NT- (none / 0) (#21)
    by Exeter on Fri May 09, 2008 at 10:13:28 AM EST