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Pope Francis Plans To Sample Coca Leaves During Visit To Bolivia, Vatican Has No Comment

Pope Francis has made a controversial decision regarding his visit to Bolivia on July 8 by stating that he plans to sample leaves from the Coca plant, the raw ingredient in cocaine. Although he will not be sampling the illicit drug, the leaves of the Coca plant are known to be mild stimulants.

Metro U.K. reported that Coca leaves are classified as a narcotic and have been illegal since 1961. However, cultivation of the plant is still rampant in Bolivia and the surrounding areas. The leaves are still imported into the United States, nearly 100 tons each year, and ingredients are extracted to use in the manufacturing of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola attempted to remove the ingredients from their beverage by releasing New Coke, but were quickly berated and returned to their original recipe.

Eating Coca leaves has proven beneficial for individuals that live in high altitudes, such as the Andes mountains, to relieve altitude sickness and other such ailments. However, other than to Coca-Cola’s third party processor, the leaves are not legally allowed elsewhere.

Pope Francis is not expecting to experience the full effects of cocaine use during his visit, but is instead opting to participate in the standard tradition for visitors to Bolivia. He opted to forego drinking the customary Coca tea and has opted to chew the leaves, since it is more traditional. According to the BBC, Pope Francis “specifically requested” to chew the Coca leaves.


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