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?

  • Correcting a historical error

    IDPC calls on countries to abstain from submitting objections to the Bolivian proposal to remove the ban on the chewing of the coca leaf
    International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)
    January 2011

    In 2009, the Bolivian government requested that the United Nations amend the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The proposed amendment would remove the unjustified ban on coca leaf chewing while maintaining the strict global control system for coca cultivation and cocaine. The 18-month period to contest Bolivia’s requested amendment ends January 31, 2011. Several countries, including the United States, Colombia, the Russian Federation, Japan, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Denmark, are considering submitting formal objections to the Secretary General. The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) calls on these governments to think again. The continuation of the ban clearly conflicts with official multilateral government declarations, including the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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  • Aide-Memoire on the Bolivian Proposal To Amend Article 49 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

    Government of Bolivia

    In 2009, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, sent a letter to the General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, in which the Government of Bolivia proposed to amend article 49 paragraphs 1 c) and 2 e) of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. From Bolivia´s point of view, the international community holds in its hands a historic opportunity to correct a misconception regarding coca leaf chewing by eliminating  both paragraphs of the Single Convention.

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  • Coca chewing out of the UN convention?

    Transnational Institute
    March 2010

    This briefing offers some background on the issue to amend the UN Single Convention towards a more coherent and realistic stance on the ancient tradition of coca leaf chewing. The issue was raised by Bolivia and adopted at the July 2009 ECOSOC meeting. Noticing confusion amongst some countries about the motives and impact of such amendment, this briefing aims to shed some light on the case.   

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  • Submission to the House of Commons Select Committee on the cocaine trade

    Memorandum on the coca leaf
    Martin Jelsma
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    June 12, 2009

    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.

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  • Coca Myths

    Anthony Henman Pien Metaal
    TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 17
    June 2009

    The coca leaf has been used and misused for many ends, each of them suiting different interests and agendas. Even its very name has been appropriated by a soft drinks producer, which still has difficulties in admitting that the plant is used to produce its "black gold". Every day press accounts around the world use the word coca in their headlines, when they refer in fact to cocaine.

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    >> Go to the online summary

     

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  • Proposal of amendments by Bolivia to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

    United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
    E/2009/78
    May 15, 2009

    The Secretary-General has received a note verbale dated 12 March 2009 from the Permanent Mission of Bolivia to the United Nations, attached to which is a letter from the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, dated 12 March 2009, in which the Government of Bolivia proposes to amend article 49, paragraphs 1 (c) and 2 (e), of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the Protocol amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 (see annex).

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  • Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves

    Evo Morales Ayma
    The New York Times (US)
    March 14, 2009

    In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs placed the coca leaf in the same category with cocaine — thus promoting the false notion that the coca leaf is a narcotic — and ordered that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished within 25 years from the coming into force of this convention.” Bolivia signed the convention in 1976, during the brutal dictatorship of Col. Hugo Banzer, and the 25-year deadline expired in 2001. Mistakes are an unavoidable part of human history, but sometimes we have the opportunity to correct them. It is time for the international community to reverse its misguided policy toward the coca leaf.

  • Letter to the UN Secretary General

    Requesting the suspension to prohibit the traditional chewing of coca leaf

    On March 12, 2009, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, sent a letter sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, requesting the suspension of the paragraphs 1c and 2e of Article 49 of 1961 UN Single Convention that prohibit the traditional chewing of coca leaf.

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  • Speech Morales at the CND

    March 11, 2009

    The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) filmed the speech of the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, at the high level UN meeting in Vienna on March 11, 2009, in which he announced that Bolivia would start the process to remove the coca leaf from the 1961 Single Convention as well as the suspension of the paragraphs of that convention that prohibit the traditional chewing of coca leaf. You can watch the video with English subtitles.

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  • Coca Leaf: The Heritage of the Andes

    Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
    April 8, 2008

    A film by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)

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