The Pope Wants To Try Coca Leaves in Bolivia

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The Pope Wants To Try Coca Leaves in Bolivia

In a rather unexpected, yet none the less cool move, Pope Francis has requested to chew coca leaves during his trip to Bolivia.

When it comes to the church, most people associate it with having a very conservative view on pretty much all things, including drugs and everything to do with them. However, Pope Francis has often bucked the trend, surprising the world with his slightly more progressive views. Following his somewhat maverick nature, he has requested to chew coca leaves during his trip to Bolivia – coca being the plant that cocaine is produced from.

Although coca leaves are prohibited across much of the globe, they remain legal and a firm part of local culture in Bolivia and the other Andean countries. In fact, just a couple of years ago, the Bolivian government successfully petitioned the UN for special permission to grow coca within its borders. Many people, including Bolivia’s president, defend the use of the coca leaf, and consider it a sacred plant.

BEATING THE ALTITUDE

One of the reasons coca leaves are held in such high regard is that they hold the ability to reduce altitude sickness. It is a use of the leaf that has persisted for centuries. This is likely to be the main reason for Francis’ indulgence; however, it was after Culture Minister Marko Machicao offered the Pope coca tea that the Pope specifically requested coca leaves to chew.

Coca

A couple of decades ago, the UN found the chewing of coca leaves to have no negative health effects, although the results were quashed by US pressure.

So whilst it is very unlikely the Pope is going to get high, it is quite a cool surprise to see him specifically requesting to immerse himself in a local custom, especially one that is banned by most nations, and is so closely linked to drugs.