The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform


October 1976 – 1961 UN Convention enters into force in Bolivia. Convention declares that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished within 25 years”.

1988 – First national drug legislation comes into being (informally designed by US) with unreasonably drastic laws.

1990 – Bolivia ratifies 1988 UN Convention with reservations, stating that the coca leaf is widely used in Bolivia and users should not be treated as criminals.

2009 – Bolivia suggests deleting the ‘coca leaf clause’ from the earlier Conventions and begins an international lobbying effort to win support from other countries.

Jan 2011- Deadline to file objections to the Bolivian amendment. 18 objections submitted (including UK, US etc), 3 (including Colombia) withdrew former objections and 5 submitted their explicit support (Spain, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela and Costa Rica). However, it was not enough to pass the reform.

June 2011 – Frustrated by previous efforts, Bolivia’s Lower House passes legislation adopting Option 4 discussed within the New Approaches section of this website ‘Denunciation and re-accession with reservations’. This re-accession will take place on 1 January 2012.




Countries in the Convention will have 12 months from the date of Bolivia’s re-accession (i.e. until January 2013) to object to the new reservation. Unless after those 12 months 1/3 of the parties have objected, the reservation will be permitted. In the case that 1/3 or more countries object, the reservation would be considered invalid but what would happen in this scenario is an open matter in international law

From an international law perspecitve this reform procedure would seem unlikely to fail, despite being unpalatable to the international drug system. Since Bolivia’s reservation will be modelled on a previously accepted reservation they made when they signing and ratifying the 1988 Convention, countries considering objecting to this action would have to argue why they could previously accept the same reservation by Bolivia for the 1988 Convention but not now for the 1961 Convention.