Coca toothpaste? Bolivia tries to drum up demand for ‘legal’ coca products (CSM)

By Sara Shahriari for The Christian Science Monitor. Link to original article, 3 June 2013

Coca Leaf Bolivia (credit: Sara Shahriari)

Coca Leaf Bolivia (credit: Sara Shahriari)

This article explores how the coca leaf is being used to make products like toothpaste, energy drinks and snacks. While coca is famous for being used to make cocaine it actually has many medicinal qualities and is a key part of indigenous culture. The government of Evo Morales is supporting alternative uses for the coca leaf but exports are not possible at the moment because the UN still classifies coca as a narcotic drug.

“The coca leaf is everywhere here. Its pungent smell rises from giant sacks presided over by indigenous women selling at street markets; and in local parks men hold pink plastic bags of it, slowly stuffing their cheeks with the leaf. Consuming coca is legal in Bolivia, and as waiters cheerfully plunk down cups of hot water with coca tea bags floating on top, you’d never guess the ever-present substance is classified as a narcotic drug by the United Nations (UN).”

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