“The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) calls on the international community not to oppose Bolivia’s move to denounce and re-accede to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs with a reservation on coca leaf chewing”.
The international drug control system is based on a series of UN conventions which have prohibition at their core. These conventions can be seen to rest on assumptions drawn from a particularly Western interpretation on the use of certain substances that is morally rather than evidenced based.
Cracks are appearing in the global ‘consensus’ on drug laws, policy changes are being called for and seem to be accepted by just about everyone except elected politicians and those of a morally puritan persuasion (the ‘Daily Mail’ tendency), i.e. those who fear change regardless of its effects.
There are innumerable victims of the ‘war on drugs’ – not the least are indigenous peoples whose way of life practiced for centuries is threatened by, frankly, an imperial mind set that imposes its own moralisng on a cultural practice it cannot understand.
I am not a cultural relativist, this is not about accepting all cultural practices as sacrosanct. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is just wrong (sorry, that is not true…all wrongs ought to have a rationale for why they are wrong, I don’t believe in some ‘natural law’). However chewing coca leaves is a harmless cultural practice that international law should just accept.
Why? Why accept chewing coca leaves and not genital mutilation?
I guess this is where Mills’ libertarian ethic of harm applies. If a cultural practice does not involve social harms then we have little right in banning it. The individual ought to be free to chew coca leaves regardless of its effects. The society in which that practice is located should have a view but should also appeal to some form of universal human right. The difference between the two practices is that the individual can choose to indulge in chewing leaves but cannot choose FGM.
Bolivia should be allowed to accede from the 1961 convention to protect the rights of its peoples in this respect.
For a discussion on FGM see Michelle Goldberg on relativism and FGM on the excellent http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/ website