Bolivia has for some time campaigned to amend the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics in order to decriminalize traditional uses of coca. These efforts have been fruitless, and now the lower house of the Bolivian Congress has approved President Evo Morales' request to withdraw from the convention.
Morales and his Movement for Socialism party (Movimiento al Socialismo - MAS) have repeatedly rejected the convention's classification of the coca leaf as an illicit substance, and its calls for the "uprooting" of all wild coca plants. According to them, such a move would be highly impractical at best, and at worst would be a serious blow to Bolivian culture. As they point out, the plant in its unprocessed form is used throughout the country for traditional and medicinal purposes.
Bolivia’s House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday, and it will now move to the Senate, where it will likely pass as the MAS party has a two-thirds majority. Once the bill goes through, President Morales is expected to sign it into law. Although the current text of the draft law would let Bolivia rejoin the convention in January 2012, it would release the country from the sections which pertain to coca cultivation.
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca has said that the move would not represent a rejection of Bolivia's responsibility to control drug production. Instead, he says, it is merely an attempt to bring this into line with Boliva’s 2009 constitution (which allows for limited coca cultivation) as well as its cultural heritage."