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?

  • Statement about the coca leaf

    Statement in support of the Bolivian announcement to ask for the un-scheduling of the coca leaf from the list controlled substances of the 1961 UN Single Convention.

    Transnational Institute / International Drug Policy Consortium (IDCP)

    March 12, 2008

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  • Letter Evo Morales to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

    In response to the 2007 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which called on countries to 'abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea', President Evo Morales of Bolivia sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon to express profound concern and discontent with the INCB in relation to the coca leaf, the practice of chewing it and the other traditional uses that have 3,000 years of history and are fully legally recognised in Bolivia.

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  • Abolishing Coca Leaf Consumption?

    The INCB needs to perform a reality check
    Transnational Institute
    Press release
    March 5, 2008

    The Transnational Institute condemns the decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in their 2007 annual report released today, which calls on countries to ‘abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea’.

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  • INCB: controversial statements on coca leaf

    Read here the full text of the controversial statements on coca leaf included in this year's Annual Report of the INCB. Some highlights:

    > "The Board calls upon the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to initiate action without delay with a view to eliminating uses of coca leaf, including coca leaf chewing" and "each party to the Convention should establish as a criminal offence, when committed intentionally, the possession and purchase of coca leaf for personalconsumption".
    > "The Board again calls on the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to consider amending their national legislation so as to abolish or prohibit activities that are contrary to the 1961 Convention, such as coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of mate de coca (coca tea)".

    See also: Abolishing Coca Leaf Consumption? The INCB needs to perform a reality check, Transnational Institute Press release, March 5, 2008

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  • The resolution of ambiguities regarding coca

    The international legal status of the coca leaf and of its traditional uses in the Andes has long been ambiguous and contested. While the International Narcotics Control Board in 1994 stated its intention to remove those ambiguities, it has instead moved towards a more intolerant criticism of policies carried out by countries like Bolivia in their renewed promotion of coca.

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  • De-vilifying the coca leaf

    Samuel Logan
    ISN Security Watch
    March 9, 2007

    Venezuelan funding of new coca leaf processing factories in Bolivia has renewed discussion on the future of licit coca products and US and Bolivian relations, but antiquated policies must be changed.

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  • Sending the wrong message

    The INCB and the un-scheduling of the coca leaf
    Martin Jelsma
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 21
    March 2007

    The INCB, rather than making harsh judgements based on a selective choice of outdated treaty articles, should use its mandate more constructively and help draw attention to the inherent contradictions in the current treaty system with regard to how plants, plant-based raw materials and traditional uses are treated.

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  • Coca Yes, Cocaine No?

    Legal options for the coca leaf
    Mario Argandoña, Anthony Henman, Ximena Echeverría Pien Metaal Martin Jelsma Ricardo Soberón
    TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 13
    May 2006

    A decade-old demand to remove the coca leaf from strict international drugs controls has come to the fore again. Time has come to repair an historical error responsible for including the leaf amongst the most hazardous classified substances, causing severe consequences for the Andean region.

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  • Coca or death?

    Cocalero Movements in Peru and Bolivia
    Allison Spedding Pallet & Hugo Cabieses Cubas
    TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 10
    April 2004

    Following Bolivia's 2002 parliamentary elections, the success of the political party headed by cocalero leader Evo Morales, rekindled debate regarding cocalero organisations in the Andes and their vindications. Disinformation around these organisations has contributed to a rise in terms like narcoguerrilleros and narcoterroristas, etc. being applied to the various cocalero peasant movements.

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  • Coca, Cocaine and the International Conventions

    Pien Metaal
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing 5
    April 2003

    It is no understatement to claim that there are few plants subject to such tensions as the coca leaf, either in legal and political circuits, or in the medical and anthropological academic world. Before, during and after its inclusion in the number 1 list of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the controversy on whether the coca leaf is or is not to be considered a narcotic drug, worthy of control by the international institutions and mechanisms, reached apparent irreconcilable positions.

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