CityPress - - News - – Reuters

The Vat­i­can has said Pope Fran­cis would de­cide for him­self whether to chew coca leaves to ward off al­ti­tude sick­ness when he lands at the world’s high­est air­port in La Paz, Bo­livia, in a week.

A Bo­li­vian min­is­ter said the pope had told gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials he would like to chew coca leaves – the ma­jor in­gre­di­ent of co­caine – when he vis­its.

Lo­cals have for cen­turies chewed coca leaves to ward off the ef­fects of al­ti­tude.

“There are pop­u­lar cus­toms that peo­ple use. Some drink coca tea and oth­ers chew leaves. Let’s see what he de­cides,” the Vat­i­can said.

The coca-leaf de­bate prompted one His­panic re­porter to in­ter­ject out loud: “Hey, it is not a hal­lu­cino­gen.”

The un­pro­cessed leaf is le­gal to use and still widely chewed in Bo­livia and other An­dean coun­tries.

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