Should Bo­livia Le­gal­ize the Ex­port of Coca?

Traveling Minds - - Table Of Contents -

Coca is an amaz­ing plant and the co­caine from its leaves has many medic­i­nal prop­er­ties, in small amounts. It has been used for thou­sands of years by the indige­nous peo­ple of the An­des and even made its way to an­cient Egypt.

It is a vaso­con­stric­tor and an anes­thetic and is used to treat wounds and fa­cil­i­tate heal­ing. It is ef­fec­tive for al­ti­tude sick­ness and coca tea is of­ten pre­scribed for tourists visit­ing high el­e­va­tions in the An­des.

Co­caine also blocks nor­ep­i­neph­rine, sero­tonin, dopamine, and other neu­ro­trans­mit­ters in the brain from be­ing re­ab­sorbed. The re­sult­ing chem­i­cal buildup be­tween nerves causes eu­pho­ria and is why co­caine is so fe­ro­ciously ad­dic­tive.

Co­caine was an in­gre­di­ent in Coca Cola for more than 40 years. The first sales were at Ja­cob's Phar­macy in Atlanta, Ge­or­gia, on May 8, 1886 when it was sold as a medic­i­nal bev­er­age for mor­phine ad­dic­tion, in­di­ges­tion, nerve dis­or­ders, headaches, and im­po­tence. Coca Cola con­tained sig­nif­i­cant amounts of co­caine un­til 1904 and trace amounts up to 1929.

Co­caine kills thou­sands of peo­ple in the United States each year but most of the deaths are from tak­ing co­caine with opi­ods. The big­gest prob­lem with co­caine is not the over­doses but the deaths from drug gangs and the ex­tremely high eco­nomic im­pact. Far more peo­ple die from drug vi­o­lence than from over­dose. The drug war in Mex­ico has killed more than 200,000 peo­ple so far and vastly more in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica.

The U.S. has spent more than $1 tril­lion on its failed drug war and suf­fered in­cal­cu­la­ble so­cial, cul­tural and eco­nomic harm from lock­ing up mil­lions of peo­ple for sell­ing or pos­sess­ing the drug.

Le­gal­iz­ing any dan­ger­ous drug is highly con­tro­ver­sial but in re­al­ity it al­ways re­sults in fewer deaths, vast eco­nomic ben­e­fits and elim­i­nates the crim­i­nal el­e­ment.

If Bo­livia were to le­gal­ize the sale of not just coca leaves but co­caine and sell it in bulk to dis­trib­u­tors it might force other coun­tries to de­crim­i­nal­ize it and en­able Bo­livia to start sell­ing only to other gov­ern­ments. This could shift the tens of bil­lions of dol­lar spent each year on co­caine into so­cial pro­grams, in­clud­ing ef­fec­tive ad­dic­tion treat­ment pro­grams us­ing neu­rother­apy, which has an 80% suc­cess rate.

The le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana has had many pos­i­tive im­pacts. Le­gal­iza­tion of heroin in Switzer­land re­sulted in large re­duc­tions in the use of all il­licit drugs and in drug-re­lated crime. The same re­sults could be re­al­ized for co­caine if le­gal­iza­tion were done in­tel­li­gently.

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