The coca leaf has been chewed and brewed for tea for centuries in the Andean region – and does not cause any harm and is probably beneficial to human health. Yet the leaf is treated as if it is comparable to cocaine or heroin. The inclusion of the coca leaf in the list of narcotic drugs raises questions about the logic behind the current system of classification under the UN conventions. Is there space to find a more culturally sensitive approach to plants with psychoactive or mildly stimulant properties, and to distinguish more between problematic, recreational and traditional uses?

  • Bolivia’s legal reconciliation with the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

    IDPC Advocacy Note
    July 2011

    On 29 June 2011, the Bolivian government denounced the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, indicating its intention to re-accede with a reservation allowing for the traditional use of the coca leaf. This decision was triggered by Bolivia’s need to balance its obligations under the international drug control system with its constitutional and other international legal commitments. The move follows the rejection of Bolivia’s proposal to amend the Single Convention by deleting the obligation to abolish coca leaf chewing (Article 49) earlier this year.

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  • Bolivia Withdraws from the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

    TNI/WOLA Press release
    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    The Bolivian government formally notified the UN Secretary General of its withdrawal from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol) yesterday. The withdrawal will enter into effect on 1 January 2012. At that time, Bolivia will re-accede to the Convention with a reservation on the coca leaf and its traditional uses.

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  • Bolivia’s concurrent drug control and other international legal commitments

    Backgrounder
    Damon Barrett
    International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy (ICHRDC)
    July 1, 2011

    Bolivia’s denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is not just about one treaty. It is about finding an appropriate balance between multiple concurrent and conflicting international legal obligations. When international treaties ratified by or acceded to by Bolivia and relevant jurisprudence are taken into account, it is clear that Bolivia would find itself in breach of multiple international agreements were it to fully implement the 1961 Single Convention as written. A reservation on the 1961 Single Convention is the most reasonable and proportionate way to address this conflict.

    international_legal_commitments.pdf (PDF)

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  • Bolivia’s denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

    Backgrounder
    Martin Jelsma
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Bolivia initially proposed an amendment to article 49, deleting the therein contained obligation that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished”. The article allowed countries only a temporary exemption, but coca chewing had to be phased out in any case within 25 years which expired end 1989 (the 1961 Convention entered into force in December 1964). By the closure of the January 31, 2011, deadline to file objections to the Bolivian amendment, 18 objections were submitted (though the one from Ukraine seemingly did not arrive in time).

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  • Bolivia to denounce and rejoin the 1961 UN Single Convention with respect to coca leaf chewing

    Press conference by Pablo Solon, Permanent Representative of Bolivia
    New York, Friday, June 24, 2011

    Press conference by H.E. Pablo Solon, Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia on the theme, "denounce and rejoin the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, with respect to coca leaf chewing”.

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  • Lifting the ban on coca chewing

    Bolivia’s proposal to amend the 1961 Single Convention
    Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11
    March 2011

    January 31 marked the close of the 18-month period during which countries could submit objections to Bolivia’s proposal to remove from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs the obligation to abolish the practice of coca chewing.

    A total of eighteen countries formally notified the UN Secretary General that they could not accept the proposed amendment: the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Russian Federation, Japan, Singapore, Slovakia, Estonia, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico and Ukraine.

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  • Objections and support for Bolivia's coca amendment

    After the closure of the January 31, 2011, deadline to file objections to the Bolivian amendment to remove the ban on coca leaf chewing in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 18 objections were submitted. Although not required, four countries explicitly submitted their support: Spain, Ecuador, Venezuela and Costa Rica. Egypt, Macedonia and Colombia withdrew their objections.

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  • The U.S. Can Still Correct its Position on Bolivia's UN Coca Chewing Amendment

    Civil Society Letter to Secretary of State Clinton Requests that U.S. Government Withdraw its Objection to Bolivia's Proposal
    Press release
    Frtiday, January 28, 2011

    The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Andean Information Network (AIN), and more than 200 other concerned organizations and individuals yesterday sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling for the Obama administration to immediately withdraw its objection to Bolivia’s proposed amendment to the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

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  • The U.S. Moves to Block Bolivia’s Request to Eliminate U.N. Ban on Coca Leaf Chewing

    TNI/WOLA Press release
    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) have learned that the United States is moving to oppose, as soon as this week, Bolivia’s formal request to remove the obligation to ban the chewing of coca leaves— an indigenous practice dating back more than 2,000 years. TNI and WOLA strongly encourage countries to support Bolivia’s proposal, which is a legitimate request based on scientific evidence and respect for cultural and indigenous rights.  

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  • U.S. Renews Anachronistic Campaign to Stamp Out Coca Leaf Chewing

    Coletta Youngers
    Foreign Policy in Focus
    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Just one month after President Obama announced that the U.S. would finally sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, U.S. officials are already violating the spirit – and the letter – of the agreement. U.S. officials are playing a lead role in maintaining an out-dated provision in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which attempts to abolish the centuries-old indigenous practice of chewing coca leaves. The 1961 Convention also mistakenly classified coca as a narcotic, along with cocaine.

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