European Parliament in favour of licit use of coca leaf

Monday, April 28, 2008

On April 23, 2008, the European Parliament approved a report by MEP Giusto Catania on the Green Paper on the role of civil society in drugs policy in the European Union. The EP, among other things, called "on the Commission and the Member States to explore ways of cooperating with EU civil-society organisations involved in promoting substances derived from coca leaves for lawful use purely as a means of contributing effectively (by absorbing raw materials) to international action against drugs trafficking, ensuring at the same time the safe use of such substances."

In other words, the EP now is in favour of the licit use of coca leaves as a way to fight drug trafficking. That is how BBC Mundo - the Spanish language section of the BBC - interpreted the text (oddly enough the news has not reached the English language press).

"The coca leaf is not cocaine," according to the rapporteur Giusto Catania from the Group of the European United Left. "It is a historical plant that might have many uses." He added that the commercialisation of licit substances derived from the coca leaf has to be promoted to support peasants and producers.

Although it is only a recommendation to the Commission and Member States, it is yet another small step to rectify the historical mistake of listing the coca leaf together with cocaine and heroin on Schedule I of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. At the moment it is prohibited to export innocuous products like coca tea to Europe. An absurdity that has to be corrected and the initiative of the EP is a welcome step forward in this respect.