This House would legalise the growing of coca leaf

This debate centres around ending the international ban on the cultivation of the coca plant for human consumption, as established by the United Nations in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which prohibited the use of the coca leaf except for medical or scientific purposes. The coca leaf is listed on Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention together with cocaine and heroin. The Convention determined that “The Parties shall so far as possible enforce the uprooting of all coca bushes which grow wild. They shall destroy the coca bushes if illegally cultivated”, and that, “Coca leaf chewing must be abolished within twenty-five years from the coming into force of this Convention”.[1] Support for the legalization of coca cultivation centres around the Andean countries of Bolivia and Peru, where coca leaf production and chewing is legal (within limits), but where cocaine production and use is illegal. This kind of policy is sometimes known as a "coca yes, cocaine no." Much of the support for legal coca cultivation surrounds its historic use among indigenous Andeans and thus its cultural significance. Bolivia exists at the center of the international fight to legalize coca. President Evo Morales has lead this charge, in particular advocating that the UN Narcotics Commission change the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs that forbids the production and use of coca. President Morales generated headlines by chewing coca while attending a meeting of the commission in 2009 and 2011.

[1] United Nations. “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961”. United Nations. 1961, amended 1972. http://www.incb.org/pdf/e/conv/convention_1961_en.pdf

 

Title 
Coca chewing is not equivalent to the consumption of hard drugs. It is no more harmful than drinking coffee.
Point 

The coca leaf, in its natural state, is not even a narcotic, even though the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs considers the natural leaf to be so. However it only truly becomes a narcotic when the paste or the concentrate is extracted from the leaf to form cocaine.[1] The simple coca leaf, by contrast, only has very mild effects when chewed and is different from cocaine. In 1995 the World Health Organisation found that the “use of coca leaves appears to have no negative health effects and has positive therapeutic, sacred and social functions for indigenous Andean populations.”[2] It may even be useful in combating obesity, and there is no evidence that coca use is addictive. At worst, it is comparable to caffeine in terms of its effect on its consumer.[3] Therefore there are no significant health reasons behind this ban on the cultivation of coca leaves for their chewed consumption in its traditional form.

[1] Morales, Evo. “Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves”. New York Times. March 13, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/opinion/14morales.html

[2] Jelsma, Martin. “Lifting the Ban on Coca Chewing”. Transnational Institute, Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11. March 2011.    

[3] Morales, Evo. “Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves”. New York Times. March 13, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/opinion/14morales.html

Counterpoint 

Compulsive Coca chewing may compromise oral health. The wider cultivation of coca plants may make cocaine itself more readily available, and cocaine has clear health risks to its consumption. This debate must be seen in terms of the wider health risks and problems that actually occur if cultivation is legalized, not just a narrow understanding of the health risks in a theoretical vacuum.

Title 
Coca production can be justified on cultural grounds
Point 

Coca chewing is hugely prevalent amongst the peoples of the Andes, and their social relationship with it is akin to that of ours with coffee in Western nations. This is why so many nations in this region cannot and simply will not ever conform to any international ban that calls for phasing it out. The custom of chewing coca leaves may date back as far as 3000 BC in the region, and so hugely pre-dates cocaine consumption, and thus shouldn't be bundled with it or banned on the grounds that cocaine is banned.[1] Coca has also been a vital part of the religious traditions of the Andean peoples from the pre-Inca period through to the present, being used 'to communicate with the supernatural world and obtain its protection, especially with offerings to the Pachamama, the personification and spiritual form of the earth.'[2] All South American countries have signed several declarations by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) that acknowledged that the chewing of coca leaves is an ancestral cultural expression that should be respected by the international community.[3] The international discouragement of the practice of chewing coca leaves and the prohibition on its use by Andeans when they travel or reside abroad can thus be seen as a violation of their indigenous religious and traditional rights, and therefore is not acceptable on a moral level.

[1] Morales, Evo. “Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves”. New York Times. March 13, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/opinion/14morales.html

[2] Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf

[3] Jelsma, Martin. “Lifting the Ban on Coca Chewing”. Transnational Institute, Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11. March 2011.   

Counterpoint 

Simply arguing that because something is a 'tradition' that it should be legalized is a nonsensical argument. Traditions need to stand on their own merits, beyond the simple fact that people have done it in the past, as anyone would recognise that a great many things done in the past were not desirable, and therefore longevity does not equal desirability. Moreover, substances have never been legalized simply because some religions place spiritual connotations upon their use. For example, many members of the Rastafarian Movement and some Muslim Sufi groups claim that using cannabis has spiritual value and is important to understanding mystic truths, but cannabis has not been legalized as a result.[1] This is because, on balance, the harms of legalization outweigh our perception of its claimed benefits, and the same is true of the coca leaf. It is also important to note that the prized position of coca in Andean culture owes much to the lucrative nature of the international cocaine market, and thus this cultural value cannot be entirely 'unbundled' from cocaine use in the West.[2]

[1] Ernest, Abel. “A Comprehensive Guide to Cannabis Literature”. Greenwood Press. 1979.;

[2] Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf

Title 
Legal coca cultivation would enhance economic growth in developing states
Point 

Millions of people in South America chew coca leaves, so this practice cannot simply be wished away.[1] Moreover, it currently acts as a vital income source in many impoverished areas of the Andes. Pasquale Quispe, 53, owner of a 7.4-acre Bolivian coca farm, explained to the New York Times in 2006: “Coca is our daily bread, what gives us work, what gives us our livelihood.”[2] Previous attempts to eradicate coca cultivation in Bolivia harmed the poorest farmers there and led to significant social unrest.[3] When it is allowed, however, coca cultivation can actually have economic benefits. Peasant cultivators in the Andes have indicated their belief that coca chewing helps increase production in agriculture, fisheries and mining.[4] The legalization of coca cultivation globally would allow for the expansion of these economic benefits. The coca leaf may have uses as a stimulant and flavouring agent in drinks (in which it is currently used to a limited extent in the West), but also in the expansion of the many domestic products currently in use in the Andes, including syrups, teas, shampoo and toothpaste. It may also have a use as a general anaesthetic.[5] Only the legalization of its cultivation globally will allow these product and economic potentials to be fully realized and allow humanity to reap the full rewards of the coca plant, rather than simply being limited by the fear and stigma surrounding  its illegal use in cocaine.

[1] Morales, Evo. “Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves”. New York Times. March 13, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/opinion/14morales.html

[2] Forero, Juan. “Bolivia's Knot: No to Cocaine, but Yes to Coca”. New York Times. February 12, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/international/americas/12bolivia.html?...

[3] Forero, Juan. “Bolivia's Knot: No to Cocaine, but Yes to Coca”. New York Times. February 12, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/international/americas/12bolivia.html?...

[4] Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf

[5] Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf

Counterpoint 

Medical uses of the coca leaf are already legal under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.[1]. The coca plant has also never been proven to be a better ingredient in these varied domestic products than other plants, and other plants may even perform even better as ingredients.[2] There is therefore no compelling reason to believe that its global cultivation would result in any meaningful economic boost or better products on the market. Saving lives from being ruined by cocaine is more important than nay minor boost we might get from other coca products.

[1] United Nations. “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961”. United Nations. 1961, amended 1972. http://www.incb.org/pdf/e/conv/convention_1961_en.pdf

[2] Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf

Title 
Unrestricted Coca production would increase the availability of cocaine
Point 

Cocaine can be readily extracted from the coca leaf. In 1992 the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) undertook a ‘prereview’ of coca leaf at its 28th meeting. The 28th ECDD report concluded that, “the coca leaf is appropriately scheduled [as a narcotic] under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, since cocaine is readily extractable from the leaf.”[1] The active ingredient in coca leaf is the same as in cocaine, just more concentrated. Because the raw material of coca and its more potent relative cocaine are so closely aligned, it is impossible to disassociate the two, and so any attempt to consider cocaine a narcotic and stop its spread must also forbid coca. Globally, cocaine is also most produced where coca is legal, and this is a clear correlation. In Bolivia, coca eradication efforts in the 1980s and 90s helped reduce cocaine production. However, as Evo Morales took power and legalized coca production and consumption, cocaine production has shot up, despite his efforts to fight cocaine production.[2] Thus legalizing coca makes it easier for cocaine producers to operate. Legalizing the cultivation of the coca leaf would therefore simply make cocaine more readily available, thus increasing all the harms that come with widespread cocaine use in society.

[1] Jelsma, Martin. “Lifting the Ban on Coca Chewing”. Transnational Institute, Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11. March 2011.    

[2] Forero, Juan. “Bolivia's Knot: No to Cocaine, but Yes to Coca”. New York Times. February 12, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/international/americas/12bolivia.html?...

Counterpoint 

If coca cultivation were legalized, there would probably be mechanisms and policies to allow the plant and its derivatives to co-exist without this necessarily signifying an increase in harmful consumption, and to limit it being grown in the huge amounts needed for cocaine production.[1] The legalizing of coca cultivation for non-cocaine use could also undermine the supply basis of cocaine itself, as farmer would shift their production of coca from cocaine-purposed coca to open market coca production, as legal production would be much more secure from government action. Therefore legalizing coca production could actually help make cocaine less readily available.

[1] Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf

Title 
Legalising coca production would undemine the wider war on the drugs economy
Point 

The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said in 2011 that exceptions for Bolivia would undermine international narcotics control efforts: “[Allowing coca] would undermine the integrity of the global drug control system, undoing the good work of governments over many years.”[1] A US official said in January of 2011: “there is evidence to suggest that a substantial percentage” of the increased coca production in Bolivia over the past several years, registered in U.N. surveys, “has indeed gone into the network and the marketplace for cocaine.”[2] These examples thus show that legalizing coca cultivation would undermine the wider war on drugs, because it shifts the policy away from one of eradicating crops which could be turned into narcotics and instead turns towards making them acceptable on the global market. It encourages countries to take eradication efforts less seriously, and seemingly undermines the commitment of the international community to the war on drugs, once it gives in on this narcotic. This will make not just cocaine but many other drugs more widely available, leading to even more ruined lives through drug abuse.

[1] M&C News. “Bolivia undermines global anti-drug efforts, UN warns”. M&C News. Jul 5, 2011. http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/americas/news/article_1649362.php...

[2] Associated Press. “U.S. to fight Bolivia on allowing coca-leaf chewing”. The Portland Press Herald. January 19 2011. http://www.pressherald.com/news/nationworld/u_s_-to-fight-bolivia-on-all...

Counterpoint 

With no other narcotic drug are the components parts of that drug banned in of themselves. For example, the raw component parts of crystal meth are not banned. These components are a variety of household cleaning compounds.[1] It is wrong therefore to suggest that it is impossible to have an effective anti-narcotics effort unless the component parts are banned, as this exact approach is successful taken in other areas.

[1] Associated Press. “New 'shake-and-bake' method for making crystal meth gets around drug laws but is no less dangerous”. NYDaily News. Tuesday, August 25th 2009.http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2009/08/25/2009-08-25_new_me...                               

Title 
Coca chewing is harmful and should be proscribed
Point 

The original decision to ban coca chewing was based on evidence that this was indeed harmful to human health. A 1950 report elaborated by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Coca Leaf with a mandate from ECOSOC states that: "We believe that the daily, inveterate use of coca leaves by chewing ... is thoroughly noxious and therefore detrimental."[1] Therefore the risk of health harms should not be dismissed or undermined. Coca is also different to caffeine and other similar products in in its capacity to be diverted to highly potent, dangerous, and damaging use in cocaine. Therefore it has unique health considerations which make its prohibition acceptable.

[1] Jelsma, Martin. “Lifting the Ban on Coca Chewing”. Transnational Institute, Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11. March 2011.   

Counterpoint 

The burden of evidence lies on the side trying to prove its harm, not on the side asserting that it is not harmful, and so the lack of categorical proof of its harm is in itself an argument for legalizing its cultivation and chewing. If proof of health risks arise then they can be addressed, but until then the ban is inappropriate and should be lifted.

Bibliography 

Associated Press. “U.S. to fight Bolivia on allowing coca-leaf chewing”. The Portland Press Herald. January 19 2011.  http://www.pressherald.com/news/nationworld/u_s_-to-fight-bolivia-on-allowing-coca-leaf-chewing_2011-01-19.html

Associated Press. “New 'shake-and-bake' method for making crystal meth gets around drug laws but is no less dangerous”. NYDaily News. Tuesday, August 25th 2009.http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2009/08/25/2009-08-25_new_me...

Ernest, Abel. “A Comprehensive Guide to Cannabis Literature”. Greenwood Press. 1979

Forero, Juan. “Bolivia's Knot: No to Cocaine, but Yes to Coca”. New York Times. February 12, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/international/americas/12bolivia.html?...

Jelsma, Martin. “Lifting the Ban on Coca Chewing”. Transnational Institute, Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11. March 2011.     http://www.druglawreform.info/images/stories/documents/dlr11.pdf    ...

M&C News. “Bolivia undermines global anti-drug efforts, UN warns”. M&C News. Jul 5, 2011. http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/americas/news/article_1649362.php...

Morales, Evo. “Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves”. New York Times. March 13, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/opinion/14morales.html        ...          

Transnational Institute Debate Papers. “Coca yes, cocaine, no?”. Transnational Institute. No. 2006/2. No. 13. May 2006. http://www.kdrink.com/fitxers/debate13.pdf               ...

United Nations. “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961”. United Nations. 1961, amended 1972. http://www.incb.org/pdf/e/conv/convention_1961_en.pdf

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