Flour to Be Bolivia’s Next Legal Coca Product?

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Coca flour could be the next product used in Bolivia’s desperate push to develop a legal market for coca products, following the recommendations of a drug policy expert who said the mild stimulant could serve as a way to treat drug addiction.

At the IV International Coca Leaf Forum, held by the Bolivian government in La Paz, international drug policy expert Martin Jelsma of the Transnational Institute said cocaine addicts could provide an important export market for coca flour. He said using coca flour would serve as a more acceptable alternative stimulant than chewing coca leaves, and could be exported more easily than the leaf, reported EFE.

Jelsma also said the introduction of products like coca flour into the market could help reduce illegal drug use in general. “It’s been difficult to reduce the international market in strong illegal stimulants,” he said, adding that it is possible to “reconquer the market with mild, controlled, but legal, stimulants.”

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Meanwhile, former Peruvian anti-drug chief, Ricardo Soberon, told EFE that the exportation of coca leaves and their legal derivatives by Bolivia to Peru, Ecuador and Argentina may be possible through bilateral treaties held with these countries.

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Bolivian President Evo Morales has been working, with little success, to bolster the internal and external market for legal coca products, and the introduction of coca flour has become his latest attempt. The president recently pushed to sell coca tea to regional partners, and a new, government-subsidized, coca processing plant was opened. However, products previously introduced on the Bolivian market have not taken off, and two coca processing plants have been shut down due to a lack of demand for their products.

Failure to develop a market for coca products could be problematic for Morales, who has in the past received substantial political support from coca producers, but is also faced with tackling drug trafficking and illegal coca production. Coca growers have protested eradication efforts, demanding the reclassification of their crops.

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According to the United Nations, Bolivia has reduced coca production for the second year running. However, the United States, which has banged heads with Bolivia over anti-drug efforts and recently announced the closure of its anti-drug office in the country, maintains Bolivia’s cocaine production potential has increased despite falling production.

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