WARREN ELLIS is a graphic novelist and author of the NYT best-selling novel GUN MACHINE. His graphic novel GLOBAL FREQUENCY is being developed for television by Jerry Bruckheimer and FOX. He is the writer of the graphic novel RED, adapted into the film starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren. His next book is NORMAL from FSG.
I think itâ€™s hard for people who have not lived in the Andean cultural region to realize how normal a product coca is, as it is marketed in the region, anyway. It is used in religious and hospitality rituals, chewed in the highlands as a cure to fatigue and altitude sickness, and consumed as a legal, ubiquitously available teaâ€“ which can be purchased in mass produced teabags as well as in loose leaves. The leaves do not have a strong effect (weaker, in fact, than caffeine). What Mr. Morales and Mr. Caceres are suggesting is the renormalization and stimulation of industries surrounding an important agricultural product. Following on a history of United States DEA planes carpet-bombing the mixed fields in which food and coca are grown for peasant domestic consumption, in one of the most misguided enforcement efforts in history, it is very sensible to engage someone who knows the difference between coca and cocaine as a minister for social defense.
In general, cocaine production does not occur in poor countries like Bolivia; if growers are illicitly farming coca for the production of cocaine, generally the leaves are partially processed into â€œpasta crudaâ€ and illegally exported via private transports to cocaine-producing countries. Cocaine must be addressed at the site of consumption, if drug enforcement officials are serious, rather than the diffuse sites of production. Or at least at the sites of production of the actual drug.