Only months after medical marijuana was legalized, the Colombia senator that successfully sought the legalization is now seeking to do the same with coca, the main ingredient for cocaine.
Coca has long been used by indigenous groups for multiple medical purposes, but has been criminalized in Colombia as the country became the world’s largest cocaine producer.
But in spite the criminalization and billions of dollars spent on the destruction of the crop, coca is alive and well and still funding some of Colombia’s most violent guerrillas, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers.
As part of a change in strategy to curb drug trafficking, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos is developing crop restitution programs that would allow farmers to abandon illegal activity and grow legal crops instead.
In the case of marijuana, the government has even granted licenses for the legal production of marijuana for medical purposes.
Traditional medical uses of coca are foremost as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness. It also is used as an anesthetic and analgesic to alleviate the pain of headache, rheumatism, wounds and sores, etc. Before stronger anesthetics were available, it also was used for broken bones, childbirth, and during trepanning operations on the skull. The high calcium content in coca explains why people used it for bone fractures. Because coca constricts blood vessels, it also serves to oppose bleeding, and coca seeds were used for nosebleeds. Indigenous use of coca has also been reported as a treatment for malaria, ulcers, asthma, to improve digestion, to guard against bowel laxity, as an aphrodisiac, and credited with improving longevity. Modern studies have supported a number of these medical applications.
But according to Galan, there is no reason not to do the same with coca.
The senator told newspaper El Tiempo there is “scientific evidence indicating coca has medicinal properties.”
Indigenous people in Colombia and neighboring Andean countries use the leave to combat altitude sickness.
According to Galan, coca farmers should be able to continue growing coca if this is meant for ancestral or medicinal purposes, allowing them to grow the crop without contributing to the country’s drug trafficking problems.
According to the Senator, the government is interested in his proposal and considering including it into crop substitution programs that will take effect if peace is signed with leftist FARC rebels.
The guerrillas have long used drug trafficking to fund their war against the state, but vowed to abandon their illicit activities.