On Friday, Bolivia’s Senate passed a bill to increase the land area allotted to legal cultivation of the coca crop from 12,000 hectares (29,650 acres) to 22,000.
For centuries, people in Latin America’s Andes mountain range have chewed coca leaves to ward off the effects of high altitude or brewed them into tea for a quick boost. Many of the region’s indigenous peoples – including the Aymara, the tribe of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is expected to sign the bill into law – consider the plant holy.
“The important thing has been to stop demonizing the coca leaf, to decriminalize it, to release it,” Alberto Gonzales, the president of Bolivia’s Senate, said on Friday. “We are talking about a noble, sacred leaf that did not deserve to be stigmatized in the way it was for almost 30 years.”
Bolivia needs about 25,000 tons of coca for traditional and religious rituals, said Cesar Cocarico, the minister of rural development and land. He added that Bolivia could industrialize and legally export about 6,000 tons of that to regional nations such as Ecuador and Argentina. …