The Bolivian government wants to modify the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to remove language that also bans chewing and other traditional sacramental purposes. The United States stands in opposition, noting that the cocaine is derived from the coca plant and it is a nation with a drugs abuse problem. The Convention originally stated that coca chewing would be phased out by 1989, but Native peoples continue to use the leaf in various medicines.
The Bolivian government is more modern than many governments, standing firmly with their indigenous peoples and claiming that not doing so would constitute discrimination. It should be noted that Bolivia is among the nations which support the rights of traditional peoples and the US does not. (see UN Convention on First Nations)
The US stated that tradition is no reason for exemption : "The position of the US government in not supporting the amendment is based on the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UN convention, which is an important tool in the fight against drug-trafficking," it said.
The United States is the World's largest consumer of drug Cocaine as well as pharmaceutical and Bolivia ranks third in production globally.
Bolvian president Evo Morales, a rare indigenous head of state, is an advocate of coca for traditional purposes and a known strong opponent of drug use, which he affirms is separate. Should the U.S. and other nations not oppose the amendment, traditional peoples will be able to continue their peaceful rites, this time without fears of prosecution.
I know that drug addictions are an issue, cocaine being a prime choice amongst the upper castes. However, denying good people their traditions simply because someone in a land far away has chemically altered their plant is morally wrong. The peaceful folk of the Andes obviously know better things to do with their plant than the white man does and violating their rights because of the name of a plant is an attack on liberty. It is an injustice to the integrity of good people to lump them in with drug abusers. Anyone who favours freedom should support unobstructed self-government.
They've been doing just fine without us.