A practical guide on how to regulate cocaine: social justice and public health at the heart of a regulation model

Steve Rolles

Together with Los Boticarios Podcast we’ve interviewed Steve Rolles, senior drug policy analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation, who wrote a practical guide on how to regulate cocaine. “We’ll put social justice at the heart of our thinking. We don’t want to reproduce the inequalities of prohibition in a legal market within the production chain.” Read the interview with Steve Rolles on how regulation is able to create a humane and sustainable alternative.

The false image of drug interceptions being a succes…

At the beginning of each year, customs of harbors and airports announce their annual amount of cocaine seized the previous year. For some, like the head of customs of the port of Rotterdam, these records are a reason for a ‘feestje’, a party. While these great amounts seem like a success, these major interceptions are merely very local and temporary gains. It really is just wasted precious land. It is time for a constructive policy, in which humanity and sustainability are leading, instead of high scores and repressive measures. Read more…

Cocaine consumption during lockdown

How does the lockdown influence the consumption of cocaine?

On the 1st of July Fair Trade Coke launched the survey ‘Cocaine use during Covid-19’. The objective of this study, is to obtain a clearer image of cocaine use during the COVID-19 lockdown. With this survey we aim to research if the lockdown measures in the Netherlands, that took place between the 16th of March and the 1st of June, have any effect on the consumption of cocaine. You can read our results here.

Are you looking for fair trade cocaine? Unfortunately, we have to disappoint you. There is no fair trade cocaine.

The War on Drugs and its repressive policy cause many problems in the global South. The War on Drugs has failed; despite prohibition the demand and supply keep increasing. Prohibition has led to an enormous increase of crime and violence, in the global South as well as in the global North. Furthermore, it has caused marginalization and displacement of vulnerable communities and its eradication efforts has caused severe environmental damage, like deforestation and intoxicating soil and water.

Fair Trade Coke is a foundation that researches and promotes a humane and sustainable alternative for the War on Drugs. In order to achieve an ecological and human rights based approach, we’ve created six objectives.

Coca is a healthy plant! It contains a lot of minerals, vitamins and phosphor and has medicinal values. So why are we destroying the plant? And why are we criminalizing the people who cultivate a sacred plant that is so beneficial for our health?

As Fair Trade Coke deems an international market of coca products a constructive alternative towards tackling violence and corruption, we should make use of the possibilities of the plant, rather than focus on the dangers of coca (in other words: producing cocaine).  Therefore, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the knowledge and practice of coca farmers.  Being cultivators of a nutritious plant with medicinal values, coca farmers are actual heroes! Thus: cocalero heroes.



As u might know, cocaine is made out of coca leaves. But did u know coca only contains 0,5% of cocaine? Coca grows at an altitude between 500 and 2000 metres, and the Andes mountains in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia offer the perfect climate for cultivating coca. Centuries before cocaine was being discovered, indigenous people across South America consumed coca. The cultivation and consumption has been of cultural and social value, and therefore an important of their economy. Besides the social and economic importance, coca was also used as a medicine. Coca is a mild stimulant that fights altitude sickness, enhances concentration and is very nutritious, among other things.  Because of its medicinal and nutritional qualities indigenous people considered coca to be sacred: la hoja sagradaDSC07460 bewerkt

When European colonization started across the world and Spanish settlers set foot on the South American continent, they were confronted with the local consumption of coca. They perceived the chewing as an ugly custom, something animals would do. Simultaneously, the Spanish conquerers saw coca consumption as a way to exploit their indigenous laborers. The indigenous miners for example, were better able to fulfill their hard work in the mines, as they get energy from chewing the leaves.


In 1860 the German scientis Albert Niemann discovered cocaine, a chemical product made from coca. Sigmund Freud found the anesthetic value of cocaine. This new panacea was then processed in several medicines. It was even used to help children overcome their shyness. At the turn of the 19th century, thanks to globalization and industrialization, the Western economy grew. The brain-workers in the upper class used cocaine as a means to deal with the heightened work pressure. Also popular soft drinks of that time used coca in their products. Coca Cola still processes coca leaves, and therefore Coca Cola has the monopoly of importing and exporting coca products.

When did cocaine became illegal?

During the twenties in the USA, politics and media started to warn for the risks of cocaine consumption: health issues, addictions and societal moral decay were things to look out for. The lack of a policy for cocaine got critisized more and more. After some measures of control the political attention dropped. However, in the sixties cocaine became a hot topic again when president Nixon declared the War on Drugs. Several sources argue that the War on Drugs wasn’t about protecting the country from the consumption of a dangerous chemical. They state the War on Drugs is a Trojan horse to have control in the South American continent. It is also proved that Nixon used the War on Drugs to weaken The Civil Rights Movement and the hippies that spoke out against the Vietnam War. Both of these groups were framed as regular drug users and a violent and moral threat to society. Ethan Nadelmann, former chairman of Drug Policy Alliance, explains in the video below the underlying racism of the War on Drugs.


In The Candy Machine Tom Feiling explains president Nixon aimed to win the second term in office. The sixties was a troubled decade. The Vietnam War, the hippie culture, the growing manifestation of the Civil Rights Movement generated anxiety amongst the white middle class. The drug culture was also a phenomena they feared. There was a growing need for safety and stability. President Nixon anticipated on the people’s fear and announced the War on Drugs, a propaganda method to meet the insecurities of the white class. With the War on Drugs Nixon profiled himself as a crimefighter.

During the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotics and Drugs  in 1961 cocaine and heroine became prohibited. This entailed that the cultivation of coca was restricted as well; like cocaine coca is categorized as List 1 forbidden drugs. As a result, coca leaves are stigmatized as being a dangerous drug. Transnational Institute argues that the prohibition of coca is in conflict with the UN Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People. Moreover, the psycho-active  effects of chewing coca is similar to the effects of tea and coffee. Hence, it is incorrect to equate the consumption of coca with cocaine. TNI therefore advocates for a distinguishment of the two in this particular treaty.



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