Growing cocaine elsewhere can be a challenge, but it is possible. Also, cocaine needs a high level of industrialization to be produced. It has been estimated that around 297g of dry coca leaf can yield a gram of cocaine, which explains why its cost is more expensive than most other illicit drugs. By comparison, 297g of dried marijuana can yield the same amount of smokeable marijuana. As such, small-time barons opt to grow pot instead.
- Cocaine is derived from 4 variations of the Erythroxylaceae shrub that hails from the South America.
- Indigenous tribes were known to chew on the leaves of the plant for a long time pre-European settlement.
- By 1855, the German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke isolated benzoylmethylecgonine, its active alkaloid.
- The substance became widely known as an anesthetic in Europe.
Sigmund Freud was known to encourage the use of cocaine in 1884 as a therapeutic tonic.
Freud argued in his paper Uber Coca that cocaine has the ability to cure sexual impotence as well as depression. Due to its growing recognition from well-known individuals, the cocaine industry was formed and colonial powers began to scout for regions where they can farm coca.
The plants, then, were brought over to Europe, Australia, India, and the rest of Southeast Asia. By 1920, the previously Dutch colony of Jana became the leading manufacturer of coca worldwide, exporting tons of coca leaves to companies in Netherlands. In the year 1925, this ended with the Geneva Convention that banned cocaine use for its addictive nature. However, as the people already knew that coca can grow outside of South America, they later reverted to Australia.
An Asst. Professor at the Texas Tech University in the Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. John C. D’Auria conducted several studies on these plants and later revealed the intricacy of its cultivation.
While other illicit plants like marijuana can grow anywhere, coca is not as easy to grow. Dr. D’Auria revealed that the woody plant Erythroxylum coca is unlike the Cannabis sativa that is herbaceous. This difference is due to how they are cultivated. Coca has the capacity to grow 1,650-4,950 ft. in the humid Amazon forest giving its unusual proclivity for low atmospheric pressure and high moisture available in only a number of places outside of Andes.
Dr. D’Auria pointed out that growing tens of coca plants can be enough for occasional chewing or for making tea but may not be enough to get the purified form of cocaine from the coca leaves expecting high-yield from illicit sales.
He further exclaimed the difficulty of extracting a useful amount of the substance from the leaf of coca revealing that the process takes chemistry knowledge on top of skill. Because of this, Australian drug barons opted to import coke rather than to manufacture it themselves. However, there’s another way that has been overlooked.
The Australian cocaine shrub Erythroxylum australe native to the North Territory of Queensland and in the Northern New South Wales, contains 0.8 percent of medetomidine, the alkaloid comparable to cocaine although it is illegal to grow the plant in New South Wales.
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