Saturday, March 15, 2008

Babies, Bathwater and the War on Drugs

Today, I figured I'd talk about a topic I really know nothing about, feel free to correct my misguided curiosities. I ran across this story on Reuters, about Peru's fight to keep Coca chewing legal. We all know that Coca is key for producing cocaine, but evidently it has more mainstream uses as well. For instance, the article states that chewing coca leaves helps with altitude sickness, is used in cooking and seems to be akin to our energy drinks we're so fond of here in the US. I don't know anything about the leaf form of the plant, but the little I've read seems to suggest it's great for increasing energy output of workers and can be consumed on a regular basis without ill effect (certainly, moderation is key). Oh, it also seems to suppress hunger, and I bet there's fewer potential side-effects than found in our prescribed and overly advertised pills that do the same thing.

So, what's the big deal? The war on drugs has deemed coca to be a bad thing because of what it's processed into, then distributed around the world. I don't condone cocaine use and in theory support keeping it out of schools and streets. However, it just seems like another typical over-reaction to ban the base substance, a product that most don't believe to be harmful and can be, in apparent situations, useful. Additionally, there are many cultural, historical and socio-economic issues that seem to not be considered in all of this - there really is more to the story.

It's been enlightening to read more about this, as well as entertaining. In the original Reuters piece it made mention that, in the trial/debate/hearing surrounding its ban, coca was passed around in a hat by a congresswoman. To my surprise it seems as though several folks there - other members of congress - partook of the gift, much to the dismay of those who believed it to be the menace we're comfortable believing it to be (there were "boos" and "hisses"!). Gotta love that.

Why am I posting this here? I still have no idea, thought it was an interesting story, figured you might think so too. Oh, and if you do find it interesting, check out this quick study on energy output and productivity of workers who chew coca vs. those who don't. When done, think of all the silly ads on TV that promise to make you more productive, the energy drinks that I'm convinced to be more harmful for your body over time than good for us. Wonder if we'll be seeing coca tea on the market anytime soon?

Beer & Peru

This was online a couple weeks ago, not really anything I felt needed repeating, but evidently Peruvians are enjoying a more prosperous life these days - evidenced solely by their increased beer sales. Yup, the good people of the country apparently bought 11.5% more cerveza in 2007 than 2006. From the article:
"Household earnings are up, we are building more houses, buying more telephones and consuming much, much more beer," President Alan Garcia told reporters in front of the presidential palace.
Prosperous, all while having laws permitting coca chewing? Go figure.