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Bolivia wants coca leaves legalised

By Adriana Stuijt     May 13, 2009 in Food
A drink made from Bolivian coca leaves is being sold in Amsterdam. The cocaine alkaloid is removed in the Netherlands. The drink's creators are building a brand-new market for the product - and it's all due to Bolivia's campaign to legalise the coca leaf.
Radio Netherlands' journalist Alejandro Pintamalli reports that the new coca leaf liqueur Agwa de Bolivia being sold in Amsterdam is not the first product to be made from coca leaves of course: Coca-Cola has been importing coca leaves from Peru since the end of the 19th century.
With the new liqueur, the 'Coco Leaf Experience' company is trying to improve the negative image the coca leaf has in countries beyond the Andes. And it's not surprising that a photograph of Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, hangs on the wall of the Amsterdam shop where the liqueur is sold, reports Pintamalli.
At a UN drugs conference last year in Vienna, Mr Morales called for the plant to be removed from the UN's list of illegal drugs saying, "The coca leaf is not cocaine".
Newsweek writes that Morales, a former coca farmer, asked the (UN) General Assembly to focus on coca's possible future as the raw material for a lucrative consumer-goods industry -- not its nefarious present, as the source of the international cocaine trade.
"This is the coca leaf, it is green, and not white like cocaine," Morales lectured, waving one limp little leaf at the hall of surprised dignitaries. Why, he demanded, is it "legal for Coca-Cola" but not other consumer or medicinal uses?' reports Newsweek.
Morales is campaigning to roll back a 45-year-old U.N. ban on trade in coca.
Mao of Bolivia.
Mao of Bolivia.
File
The Andean people began chewing coca 4,500 years ago and have discovered many nutritional and health benefits from it.
He wants to expand trade in legal, non-narcotic coca products, from tea to shampoo and soda pop.
However, under pressure from the United States, which has spent billions to eradicate coca as part of its war on drugs, Morales has reluctantly destroyed more acres of coca than his predecessors.
While the previous Bush administration said he wasn't doing enough, Morales however wants to double to 59,000 acres the amount of land that Bolivia set aside long ago to grow coca for legal uses.
Armed with scientific studies, Bolivian officials are attacking the impression that coca itself is harmful to health. There's even a travelling coca-museum to emphasize all its benefits. see
They argue that legal products could be a viable alternative to growing the plant for use in cocaine, and far more effective than trying to wipe out the hoja sagrada, or sacred leaf, that has been a staple of Andean daily life and religious rituals since ancient times. see entire Newsweek report here
"We are unique in the world" says owner of the 'Coco Leaf Experience' Tommy Burke.
"We want to let people see the positive side of the coca leaf, because there is a big difference between the coca leaf and cocaine". see
More about Bolivia, Coca lea legalisation, Coca leaf experience, Evo morales, Drugs conference
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