Should Coca Leaf Chewing be Legal?
From an article in AFP we find the following:
Bolivia has petitioned the United Nations to overturn a provision of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which considers the coca leaf a narcotic and calls on countries to eradicate coca leaf chewing.
Andean people have chewed coca leaves as a mild stimulant since ancient times. Coca is currently being used as an ingredient in Bolivian soft drinks, tea, flour, toothpaste and liquor.
The article is primarily about how the US is in opposition to this change. As it is the US that has a cocaine addiction problem, not Bolivia, Colombia or Peru, and the countries between the coca growing countries and the US tend to be the victims of illegal drug flow, this seems like a topic worthy of discussion here.
Historically, over 70 years ago the US banned growing marijuana (with a temporary legalization during WWII so that hemp could be used to make rope and such). It is pretty clear that this ban plus sometimes severe penalties for possession which is implemented at the state level has not stopped consumption as a drug.
Chewing coca leaf happens. Legislation will not stop this. Yes, it did cause Coca Cola to no longer have coca in it. But to make things every more interesting, you can buy coca leaf tea in the U.S.
The real issue here is whether the practice of chewing coca leaf in Bolivia (and I expect other coca producing nations) has anything to do with/will make any change in cocaine use in the user nations. To me this feels a lot like suggesting that if we don't tell teenagers what sex is, they won't have it.
While I haven't verified this, I was told by a Colombian that it is peer pressure, not criminalization, that controls cocaine use in Colombia. She said there are occasional consumption problems but the general response is that the person did something stupid, not that the law would be involved.
Is there any basis for the idea that legalizing something in one country where millions of people do it anyway will change what seems to be an almost unrelated problem?