Conzelman will discuss the science and history of the coca leaf in traditional South American cultures, events leading to its modern-day status as a prohibited substance, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency criticism of traditional coca use among indigenous Andean populations and the social, political and economic impacts of the U.S. War on Drugs. “It’s often called the sacred leaf,” says Conzelman. For thousands of years, the coca leaf has been a cornerstone of Andean culture, holding significant spiritual, social, economic, and medicinal value. Today, coca is known to contain various nutrients, including calcium, iron, and protein. The leaf also contains several alkaloids, among them cocaine. Caffeine, nicotine, and quinine are examples of alkaloids found elsewhere. While coca is the base of the illicit derivative, the natural leaf bares no threat to its consumer. Chewing coca leaves produces a healthy energy with no caffeine-like jitters, no crash, and provides essential nutrients and alkaloids. Conzelman contends that “the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the only convention of its sort ever to be held, was based on the belief that Andean locals are drug users; that the coca leaf is the cause of their poverty and underdevelopment,” citing her own experience and studies of the Andean peoples and the coca plant contradicts this notion.
The Telluride Science Research Center’s Pinhead Lecture Series runs Tuesdays through Aug. 3. 6-7:15 p.m., in the Palm Theater (721 W. Colorado Ave.).Donations are encouraged. For more information visit http://www.telluridescience.org/pinhead/2010 or call 970/708-0004.