Bolivia will observe the National Day of coca-leaf chewing on Thursday as part of a domestic and international campaign to restore the traditional useof the coca leaf.
“The Bolivian government managed to decriminalize the traditional use of the coca leaf, but only within Bolivian territory and not in other countries,” the Vice Minister of Coca and Integral Development Gumercindo Pucho Mamani stated.
Pucho announced that representatives from various Bolivian social movements will stage a march on Thursday from the city of El Alto towards the capital Villarroel Square to commemorate the ancestral plant.
The Bolivian constitution protects the plant as part of their cultural heritage and states that in its natural state it is not a narcotic and has traditional, cultural, food, and medicinal uses.
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"The act of chewing does not cause harm to anyone. Rather, it is beneficial to ones health,” coca union leader Leonardo Loza told Bolivian newspaper Los Tiempos.
In 2013 the Bolivian government successfully petitioned the United Nations for special permission for coca growing and its licit uses within its borders.
Bolivian president Evo Morales supports the policy of ‘social control’ to manage coca cultivation by enforcing a cap of 2,500 square meters per family.
As a result of the newly introduced policies, coca cultivation in Bolivia fell 9 percent in 2013 and 26 percent in the past three years, according to a 2014 U.N. report.
Coca leaves act as a stimulant, alleviate hunger, thirst, and tiredness, and are also used as medicine. Coca leaves are also often consumed in teas, breads, and ground into flour.