|Chuspa, traditional coca bag|
However, the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances classifies coca in Schedule I, along with cocaine and heroin, as substances that are considered particularly unsafe and lacking any medical use. Under Article 7(a), parties to the convention must prohibit “all use except for scientific and very limited medical purposes.” This classification is based primarily on a 1950 study, widely considered to be seriously flawed, which included the coca leaf as “narcotic drug."
|Coca leaves for sale in the marketplace|
Recommendation 7: The practice of chewing coca leaves continues in Bolivia and Peru. The countries in the region are suffering from the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in cocaine. The Board calls upon the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to initiate action without delay with a view to eliminating uses of coca leaf, including coca leaf chewing, that are contrary to the 1961 Convention. The Governments of those countries and Colombia should strengthen their efforts against the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in cocaine. The Board calls on the international community to provide assistance to those countries towards achieving those objectives.
Some of the criticisms have been quite blunt. Pien Metaal, a researcher specializing in coca issues at the Transnational Institute, put it like this: “The Board is displaying both arrogance and blindness by demanding that countries impose criminal sanctions on distribution and possession for traditional uses of the coca leaf, which is a key feature of Andean-Amazon indigenous cultures. Isn’t it time for this UN treaty body to get in touch with reality and show some more cultural sensitivity?” And the International Drug Policy Consortium said, "The approach adopted in the report towards this complex and sensitive issue demonstrates a surprising ignorance and insensitivity not suitable for a UN body."
|Congresswoman Hilaria Supa Huamán|
Jose Garcia Belaunde, the foreign relations minister of Peru, said that Peru's right to chew coca leaves is protected as an Andean tradition. Bolivian President Evo Morales, who rose to power as a leader of coca growers, has pushed to have coca removed from its current classification as a controlled substance.