Legalising Coca Mar13

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Laura Clarke

is an International Relations graduate living in London. She enjoys writing, talking and, thankfully, quite likes rain too.

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Legalising Coca

Social Issues – Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has called for the UN to revise its position on the chewing of coca leaves. Speaking in Vienna at a UN anti-drugs meeting, Morales asked that the UN lift the ban on coca leaves, put in place by a 1961 Convention.

The legal status of coca leaves – the raw substance used for producing cocaine – has been a contentious issue for decades. Despite claims that coca has a large cultural value in Bolivia, the international community has typically ignored such arguments in its pursuit of the War on Drugs. With Bolivia ranked as the world’s third biggest producer of cocaine, it has been a primary target of global anti-drugs policies and action.

Bolivia represents a case of crossed purposes with regards to the War on Drugs. While the production of cocaine is undoubtedly a problem, coca leaves represent a fundamental aspect of Bolivian heritage, as well as a major source of income for impoverished indigenous communities. U.S. action to tackle cocaine production has damaged the livelihoods of many Bolivians who lack alternative means of survival.

Morales is right to argue that the UN position on coca leaves represents a “historic wrong.” In attempting to attack the production of cocaine at its source, the international community has made an implicit judgment on an aspect of Bolivian culture. With no data demonstrating that coca has a negative effect on humans, the decision to declare the substance illegal is purely a matter of politics.

The drug industry is an international problem and a major source of criminal activity in Latin America. Care must be taken, however, not to condemn the innocent to poverty as a result of ignorant and ineffective policy.

Read more at the BBC.