Newsbrief: Bill to Legalize Coca Prepared in Colombia 10/17/03

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Colombian legislators have introduced a bill that would legalize the possession, cultivation, and consumption of coca, the Colombian media outlet Actualidad Etnica reported. First presented at last month's National Forum on Drug Policy, the proposed "Coca Law" is aimed specifically at protecting peasant, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities from persecution for growing a bush cultivated in the Andes for millennia. The bill would not legalize the cocaine traffic. "The growing of coca bushes and the use of coca leaf for [traditional religious] practices and for industrial, medicinal, or alimentary use will not be considered possession or use of drugs," says the text of the bill.

"The right of traditional licit uses of the coca plant is considered sacred under international and national norms that apply to Colombia," wrote the bill's authors. "It is necessary that this prerogative of taking advantage of the diverse virtues of this plant for food, medical, and industrial use that favors the indigenous communities be extended to all the population. It is necessary to have a law that -- maintaining the distinction between renewal natural resources of vegetal origin (with alkaloids) and the drugs processed from these plants -- legalizes for all the Colombian population the growing and consumption of coca."

The proposal's proponents cite the 1961 Vienna Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Colombian law as providing for the recognition of coca as distinct from cocaine, and also call for legalization of the leaf as a means of protecting the environment and aiding sustainable development. "Upon reducing the number of illicit hectares of coca, the alternative legitimate and licit uses would reduce the environmental harm generated by the use of pesticides and of chemical precursors in land and water sources in the cultivation of illicit coca," argued the bill.

Coca legalization would also presumably lessen the environmental and human toll of the US government-funded coca eradication aerial spraying program, which has covered hundreds of thousands of hectares with glyphosate and other pesticides. But that is the policy of President Alvaro Uribe, and it is difficult to see this bill going anywhere under his government.

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Issue #307, 10/17/03 Supreme Court Upholds Doctors' Right to Recommend Medical Marijuana | Outgoing California Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Guidelines Bill, But Movement Grumbles Over Plant Limits, Caregiver Provisions, More | Bolivia on the Brink: Strikes, Blockades, Mass Marches, Dozens Killed as US-Backed Administration Teeters | DRCNet Interview: Retired New York Supreme Court Justice Jerome Marks | Newsbrief: California's Proposition 36 Generating Big Increases in Drug Treatment | Newsbrief: Cops Laud "Big Bust" at University of Virginia | Newsbrief: Venezuela Vice-Pres Lashes Out at US Drug Czar, CIA | Newsbrief: Bill to Legalize Coca Prepared in Colombia | Newsbrief: Prosecution of Southwest Virginia Pain Doc Stumbles | Newsbrief: Lame Duck Governor Vetoes Needle Exchange Bill | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Damages Sought in Mississippi Raid that Destroyed Innocent Plants | Media Scan: Zurita on Bolivia/Coca, Barthwell & Kampia, Boston Phoenix on ONDCP Summit, Clarence Page, Prevention Postcards | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | SSDP ED Search Accepting Applications | The Reformer's Calendar

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