Despite the stereotype of cocaine as merely a party drug, coca leaves and their products have long had other uses. For thousands of years people in the Andean region chewed coca leaves as a mild stimulant while working throughout the day. The coca leaves give them energy and diminish hunger, and are also used for medical purposes (coca is a painkiller). Not only that, cocaine has been found in the remains of ancient Egyptian mummies. Even in the Western world today, coca is put to other uses. Coca Cola, the soda has decocainized leaf extract. And even in the United States for certain types of pain relief cocaine is available in liquid form to stop pain and restrict the flow of blood after certain surgeries or injuries. Now there’s increased recognition of why coca traditionally had so many uses among people in the Andean region.
However as there’s a huge genus Erythroxylum consisting of not only Erythroxylum coca (the mostly commonly used species to produce coca) there are a number of other species containing varying amounts of cocaine and a wide variety of other alkaloids and chemicals with a huge variety of medical effects. There are 230 species of Erythroxylum that are native to tropical areas and that can grow in subtropical regions. Various types of Erythroxylum can be found in the wild in Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Certain chemicals in coca leaves can treat diabetes, obesity, ADHD, immune system disorders, among other conditions. Medical research has on cocaine has been stifled due to the war on drugs. It should be noted that a lot of what modern medicine now knows about surgery was pioneered with using cocaine as a painkiller. However travel, as well as Westerners now opening their minds to learning about other cultures has speared a great interest in learning about the effects of coca and ethnobotanicals.
Coca leaves and various products are already legal in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia. Those governments issue licenses to farmers to grow this crops which has always been a part of Andean culture. Legalisation not only puts more money in governments, by winding down the war on drugs it saves money from incarcerating people and it actually curbs crime. The illegal cocaine market worldwide is estimated at 94 billion to 143 billion. Greater legalisation would deprive organised crime of resources while proving the public with new medical and even recreational products. In South America there are candies, food products and drinks made from coca leaves. The legal coca market in South America (traditional uses, and edibles containing coca) is already over a billion dollars. As coca is legalised in other nations besides for Coca Cola extract and painkillers in hospitals, the revenues would skyrocket.
Interest in coca leave legalisation has spread beyond South America. As large numbers of South Americans continue to move to Europe, a number of them chew coca leaves or drink the tea as a part of their traditional culture. As some South Americans upon visiting Bolivia or Peru get into trouble with customs on bringing back coca leaves for personal use, there’s an effort to legalise coca leaf use via court relief in Spain and in other European nations. As greater awareness occurs of coca leaf uses and it’s economic potential, Spanish newspapers like LaVanguardia are now starting to cover the latest news on it, while Spanish NGOS such as ICEERS have conferences on coca leaves in Brazil and in Spain while pushing for legalisation in Spain. As cannabis legalisation proceeds, so will the legalisation of ethnobotanicals such as coca and other plants that are grown in other parts of the world and tied to other cultures.