The coca leaf has been chewed and brewed for tea for centuries in the Andean region – and does not cause any harm and is probably beneficial to human health. Yet the leaf is treated as if it is comparable to cocaine or heroin. The inclusion of the coca leaf in the list of narcotic drugs raises questions about the logic behind the current system of classification under the UN conventions. Is there space to find a more culturally sensitive approach to plants with psychoactive or mildly stimulant properties, and to distinguish more between problematic, recreational and traditional uses?

  • Coca leaf: Myths and Reality

    Many myths surround coca. Every day press accounts around the world use the word coca in their headlines, when they refer in fact to cocaine. TNI's Drugs and Democracy Team expose the myths and reality surrounding the coca leaf.

    See also: Fact Sheet: Coca leaf and the UN Drugs Conventions

  • Migrants and traditional use

    The coca leaf travels from the Andean Amazon to the European courts
    Pien Metaal, Constanza Sánchez & Natalia Rebollo
    Thursday, April 25, 2019

    For the past several years, Fundación ICEERS, with the support of allied organisations such as the Transnational Institute (TNI), has been assisting in the legal defense of people with a migrant background who are prosecuted in Spain (or other European countries) for the possession or importation of coca leaf for the purposes of traditional use. These people originate from countries with a legal framework allowing for licit traditional use of coca leaf, such as Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. These cases have had different outcomes and, when people have been convicted, sentencing has not been uniform. How to reconcile migrant communities’ right to the enjoyment of cultural life (including the use of traditional plants) with international drug control obligations.

  • Coca leaf: A Political Dilemma

    Sophie Ostler
    APPG for Drug Policy Reform
    September 2013

    For fifty years the World’s attitude to and treatment of the coca leaf and coca farmers has been controlled by the UN Drugs Conventions beginning with the Convention of 1961 which prohibited the production, possession and purchase of the coca leaf as well as cocaine. The assertion of this report is that the illegal status of the coca leaf is based upon a misinterpretation of science, first of all in 1950 with the publication of the misleading study of the Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf; and much later with the blocking of the publication of a report in 1995 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which made abundantly clear that the coca leaf itself has “no negative health effects”.

    application-pdfDownload the report (PDF)

  • Schijnheilig bezwaar van Nederland tegen het kauwen van coca bladeren

    Nederland keert zich tegen het herintreden van Bolivia in het VN verdrag met een voorbehoud die het traditionele gebruik van coca toe staat in het land
    Martin Jelsma Tom Blickman
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    Vrijdag, 11 januari 2013

    De Nederlandse regering heeft bij de Verenigde Naties bezwaar aangetekend tegen de herintreding van Bolivia in het Enkelvoudig Verdrag inzake verdovende middelen uit 1961. Bolivia was vorig jaar uitgetreden en wil opnieuw toetreden met een voorbehoud die het traditionele inheemse gebruik van coca in het land een internationale legale dekking geeft.

    > Zie ook: Wij zijn schijnheilig over coca kauwen, NRC Handelsblad Opinie, 17 januari 2013

  • Bolivia wins a rightful victory on the coca leaf

    Creates a positive example for modernizing the UN drug conventions
    TNI/WOLA press release
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Today the Plurinational State of Bolivia can celebrate a rightful victory, as the country can become formally a party again to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, but without being bound by its unjust and unrealistic requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished.” This represents the successful conclusion of an arduous process in which Bolivia has sought to reconcile its international treaty obligations with its 2009 Constitution, which obliges upholding the coca leaf as part of Bolivia’s cultural patrimony.

  • Objections to Bolivia's reservation to allow coca chewing in the UN conventions

    The United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy and Canada notified their objections
    Tom Blickman
    Friday, January 4, 2013

    Sweden joined the United States and the United Kingdom in objecting to the re-accession of Bolivia to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs after Bolivia had denounced the convention and asked for re-accession with a reservation that allows for the traditional age-old ancestral habit of coca chewing in the country. Italy and Canada also objected, but the objection of Sweden is particularly disturbing.

    Foglia di coca, la congiura degli ipocriti, versione in italiana

  • European Union discussion on response to Bolivia's denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

    Latest update: November 28, 2012

    The following notes are summaries of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs discussions about Bolivia’s coca amendment and denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, taken from the reports of their meetings since September 2010.

  • The UN International Narcotics Control Board Releases 2011 Annual Report

    Accuses Bolivia of Threatening Integrity of the Global Drug Control System by Reserving the Right to Use Coca Leaf
    TNI/WOLA Press release
    February 28, 2012

    The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which monitors implementation of the global drug treaties, has trained its fire on Bolivia, this time accusing the country of threatening the integrity of the entire international drug control regime by defending traditional uses of the coca leaf.

    application-pdfDownload the press release (PDF)

  • Response of Bolivia to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)

    Ministry of Foreign Relation of the Plurinational State of Bolivia
    La Paz, February 24, 2012

    In a letter to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) the Government of Bolivia rejects the judgments made by the independent agency of the United Nations after a visit in December 2011 and the conclusions of the Board on the decision to withdraw from the 1961 UN Single Convention and re-adhere with a reservation that would allow for the use of coca in its natural state within Bolivian territory an uphold the traditional practice of coca chewing. The Bolivian government says the INCB is overstepping its mandate. TNI publishes an unofficial translation of the original spanish version of the letter.

    Download the letter in PDF

  • Bolivia, the coca leaf and the right to reserve

    Bolivia re-enters the 1961 Single Convention on January 28
    Pien Metaal
    Monday, January 2, 2011

    Just before ending 2011, Bolivia presented the formal notification to the United Nations secretariat in New York, announcing their re-adherence to the 1961 UN Single Convention, including a reservation on the use of coca leaf in its natural form, such as coca chewing and infusions. This step was expected to happen, after Bolivia withdrew in June 2011 from the Treaty in an attempt to reconcile its international obligations with its 2008 Constitution. From the day the re-adherence was received in New York, according to the procedure and established practice, it will take 30 days for Bolivia to again become a full member of the 1961 Convention. In other words, on January 28, 2012, the re-adherence will be a fact.


Page 1 of 5