From wandering Mike Powell, here's a great look at the coca leaf:
The coca leaf has been an integral part of Andean culture for centuries. It’s sacred among indigenous people (consider my hot dog example, but with “communion wafers”). Coca has important medical properties, such as fighting altitude sickness, especially useful to those living in the mountains. Since pre-Incan times, the coca leaf has been used in religious ceremonies, brewed into teas, and chewed as a mild stimulant. A stimulant about on the same level as coffee.Also, a global commission has concluded the war on drugs has failed:
But then Europeans “discover” South America, rush in, rape the Andean nations of their natural resources, murder and enslave its indigenous people, and install themselves as kings and presidents. And then, just to further piss on an already humiliated people, they take the Andes’ most important and sacred plant, and figure out how to distill cocaine from it. After discovering that their new drug can be deadly, they freak out and declare that cocaine must be eradicated from the earth. They demand that Andean nations destroy their coca fields … crops which constitute the only livelihood for legions of farmers. Do you think Bolivia should be pissed off?
It’s ridiculous. Shameful. Juergen and I have chewed coca leaves a few times since arriving in Bolivia… it’s really as mild as we had read. You feel a slight increase in energy, which lasts for an hour or so. Even among the most heavy users, chewing coca presents absolutely no risk of addiction, nor does it have any dangerous consequences — those are just medical facts, proven over and over again. The USA and Europe have no business telling Bolivian farmers what they can and can’t grow.
Among the members of the commission are former presidents of Columbia, Mexico and Brazil, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others.You can imagine what the official US response was.
The report calls for an end to the "criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others," and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.
"Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime," the report says. "Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights - and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation."