Bolivia's President Defends Right to Chew Coca

At the meeting of the UN Commmission on Narcotic Drugs that opened today in Vienna, Bolivian President Evo Morales held up a coca leaf and defended -- to applause -- the right of Bolivians to grow and chew the plant:

Morales said that chewing coca leaves was an "ancestral right" for Bolivians. "We are not drug addicts when we consume the coca leaf. The coca leaf is not cocaine, we have to get rid of this misconception," he said in a speech that ended with applause from the hall.

"This is a millennia-old tradition in Bolivia and we would hope that you will understand that coca leaf producers are not drug dealers."


U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerokowske also spoke at the meeting. He said the Obama Administration is "steadfastly opposed" to drug legalization.

Here's the full program agenda with links to documents. Interesting factoid: The first legal instrument on drug control was signed 100 years ago in 1912 -- it was the International Opium Convention.

Here's the Director's 2012 State of the Drug War report. For the U.S. he writes:

The non-medical use of prescription drugs remains a major problem in the United States, where they are reported as the second most commonly used type of drug after cannabis. The estimated prevalence of current cannabis use among
persons age 12 or older in 2010 (6.9 per cent) is reported to be similar to the figure in 2009 (6.6 per cent) but higher than in 2008.

The estimates of current non-medical users of prescription drugs, including opioids and stimulants, as well as of users of methamphetamine and “ecstasy”, also remained stable in 2010. “Ecstasy” use in 2009 was reported to be increasing, however. While the estimated total number of cocaine users has remained stable since 2009, they decreased from 0.7 per cent of those age 12 or older in 2008 to 0.6 per cent in 2010.

In North America as a whole, the treatment demand for cannabis use, opioids and cocaine remains at levels comparable to previous years. High levels of drug related deaths were reported: 182.4 per million population for the United States, and
93.34 per million population for Canada. In the United States, prescription opioids are the main drug type reported in drug-related deaths.

182 out of 1 million people doesn't sound like a lot. Drug use/abuse is not among the 15 leading causes of death.

Illicit drug use is down in Mexico.

For Mexico, the use of cannabis, opioids, cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants is reported as declining, while stable trends have been reported for tranquillizers, hallucinogens and inhalants.

The conclusion section to the report says:

In recent years, there has not been a significant increase in the estimated number of illicit drug users in the world. There are stabilizing or decreasing trends in the use of traditional, or conventional, drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin, which are especially evident in North America and Europe.

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  • Display: Sort:
    It's nothing (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Edger on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 08:23:23 PM EST
    compared to all the koolaid snorting going on every day destroying millions of lives. And I don't see any war on koolaid.

    Does the Obama Administration even have a position on koolaid?
    Ummm... oh, never mind. ;-)

    Correction... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 08:28:24 AM EST
    It is an ancestral right and an inalienable right. A basic human right. To chew on any plant in the plant kingdom.  Or smoke any plant. Or eat any plant.

    Mother Nature don't make mistakes...people do.  Governments especially do.

    Chewing on coco leaves and/or (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 07:18:06 PM EST
    drinking Pisco sours is supposed to stave off altitude sickness.  

    Well in Reality... (none / 0) (#8)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 08:51:35 AM EST
    ...he brought drugs into the US.

    If I had held up the same leaf I would be arrested and in Texas looking at a rather harsh punishments.

    And many countries are far worse.

    But apparently because he is the President of Bolivia he gets a standing ovation.  WTF.

    Not really sure what my point is, but that I am tired of it, especially Obama, he'd gone right of every other President, maybe not Nixon, in regards to drug policy and key appointments.

    I don't know... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 09:13:22 AM EST
    unless you also held a sign stating "This is Coca!", I don't think anyone would know what it was in Texas or NY or anywhere in the USA...maybe a eucalyptus leaf?  You'd be golden Scott...the hard part is finding some;)

    And I think the standing O was for the message, not so much the messenger.  Because the message is common sense.


    Kdog, He Did Just That (none / 0) (#11)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 09:43:20 AM EST
    No sign, but in front of hundreds of people and cameras, he held up the leaf and stated what it was.

    I guess I should have stated if I held up the same leaf and made the same proclamation...

    Good point about the leafs, wonder if anyone imports the leafs and makes their wares up here.  Surely that leaf is average looking, certainly not as distinctive as others illegal ones.


    Silly me... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 09:57:42 AM EST
    you're right, if you did what Morales did you'd be legally kidnapped.  Diplomatic immunity?  

    You'd have to import a sh*tload of coca leaves to make it worth your while...approx. 297 kilos of coca to make one kilo of coke.  

    Pre-prohibition Japan and the USA were the leading cocaine producers in the world.


    I was Thinking... (none / 0) (#13)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 10:16:43 AM EST
    ...cargo shipments, hundreds of tons at a pop.

    Makes the leaves worth about $23/lb, around what fresh spices are worth and I know they are brought in from other countries.

    I wonder if the dogs smell for the actual drug or the chemicals used to refine it.

    The S. American cartels... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 10:23:17 AM EST
    might prevent a wholesale bulk importer from cutting them off the gravy train...drop a dime about a shipment and have Uncle Sam be the muscle at no charge to the cartel, Uncle Sam happy to oblige.  

    If there was profit there somebody would be doing it already, of that much we can be certain.  Easier to just start a meth lab, all ingredients available domestically.


    death rate? (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 10:02:42 PM EST
    The fifteen leading causes of death are for all ages.  No one disputes that most 80 year olds don't die of illicit drug use.  It also doesn't list drug-related homicides, suicides, or accidents as drug-related.
    You might want to legalize drugs to keep people out of prison, but just google "bath salts" to see what happens when cheap, legal, methamphetamine-like drugs are available to teenagers and people in their early twenties.

    Dumb (none / 0) (#16)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 10:29:04 AM EST
    Bath salts are a direct result of other, more preferred products, not being legal.  It's why people huff tape cleaner, the want to get high, and the good stuff isn't always available.  If it were, bath sales would be for bathing and tape cleaner would have died with VHS.

    Ditto for all the OD's because the doses aren't uniform or they are cut with some junk the body don't like.

    And when you say 'illicit drug use' I assume you mean drugs that are always illegal.  Because trust me, there are tons of old timers hooked on prescription medication.  Pain meds at 80 are almost a necessity. My grandma near the end would get quarts of liquid Vicodin, trust me, she was hooked.

    But what else are they going to do, make her suffer so the ditto heads can feel good about keeping people from getting hooked ?


    Just more reasons for RE-legalization (none / 0) (#17)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 10:42:34 AM EST
    Few alcohol imbibers drink Everclear ethanol and nothing else. The reasons should be obvious: pure alcohol is much more destructive than weaker alcoholic beverages.

    Likewise, given a choice, most people would choose cannabis over alcohol, as, compared to alcohol, cannabis is vastly less destructive.

    WRT to RE-legalizing other drugs, well, we have beer at 3.2 % alcohol, and at the other end of the spectrum is the aforementioned Everclear. The choice for ever more destructive methods of intoxication is available to those foolish enough to risk it.

    Mother Nature, 'red of tooth and claw', will see to it that those not intelligent enough to consciously weigh the risks will pay for that lack of intelligence while ingesting their favorite 'poison', with penalties up to and including death. Which happens every year in this country, regardless of known addictiveness  or illegality of substance, despite all the media attention such cases receive.

    In a seemingly brutal and callous calculus, it's better that than the problems historically documented with alcohol Prohibition when it was tried, and with the same kind of evils we presently endure today with the cartels in charge of production and distribution.

    In an aside, one might also want to ask this question: Are the lives of alcoholics worth less than those of other drug addicts? We've spent a trillion dollars in the past 40 years trying to stop people from using other drugs, but not from using the drug alcohol. One might assume from that that a juicer's life is less valuable than a doper's. A boozer might feel discriminated against, and that's just not fair!


    Agree With Everything but... (none / 0) (#18)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 03:23:51 PM EST
    ...money spend on keeping people, namely kids, to limited use of alcohol is profound.  From all the regulation and underage laws, to blue laws, to the massive enforcement it take to ensure all these laws are followed.

    They spend a lot to restrict alcohol consumption.  Lushes should not feel left out, we drop lots of change on their wants/needs as well.  

    Which I would add isn't possible with drugs because of the zero tolerance bravado.