Thursday, March 30, 2006

US Embassy recommends coca tea

Vheadline has a good piece on coca. Shorter version:

For thousands of years, coca has been a rich source of nutrients for poor South Americans. It can be made into flour or wine. It's used in these countries for everything from religious ceremonies to toothpaste to tea. In fact, the US Embassy in Boliva recommends that travelers drink the tea to combat altitude sickness, acknowledging that it's less of a stimulant than coffee.

Yet for the last five years the US has embarked on a campaign to eradicate the plant in an ill-conceived bottom end effort to eliminate the refined cocaine trade in the US by bombing small farmers with herbicides in order to force them to stop growing the only crop that thrives in the climate and will provide a bare living for their families.

While the of the black market is hotly debated, it is easy to overlook coca’s importance to the legal economies of these three large producers, and to the culture of those who depend on it.

I thought that was a good point. It's beyond the average American's comprehension that the coca plant could be so utile and so completely beneficial, while cocaine can be so destructive. But I'd bet money the US ambassador drinks the tea every day.

The irony is they could develop a strong market in the US for the legal agricultural products derived from the plant and transform the black market into a legal alternative economy. It's so apparent a solution, you would think the drug warriors would have figured it out themselves. Of course that would presume they actually want to win their war on some drugs.


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