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Bolivia's president defends coca-leaf chewing

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March 11, 2013 09:20 AM EST | AP


VIENNA — Bolivia's president says the coca leaf is not cocaine, defending the practice of chewing it after securing de-facto U.N. acceptance of it in his country.

Evo Morales says chewing the leaf of the plant used to make cocaine should not be confused with the harmful effects of its end products. He spoke Monday at the annual meeting of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Following a three-year absence, Bolivia has rejoined a commission treaty seeking to restrict drug use to medical and scientific purposes after Morales obtained an exemption on the prohibition of coca-leaf chewing. despite U.S. opposition.

"This coca leaf, it's green, not white like cocaine," he told delegates, waving a leaf as he spoke. "We have organized ourselves to combat the use of cocaine and all other drugs."