Why is Cocaine Illegal for Personal Consumption?

Many people assume cocaine is illegal because it is dangerous. But the reasons aren’t always related to its relative risk or harm.

At different times around the world, coffee has been illegal and cocaine has been widely available. Cocaine is illegal because in its current form, it’s highly addictive and irregulated cocaine thats mixed with various cutting agents increase the risk of an overdose or serious illness from use. 

Most cocaine is mixed with cutting agents and impurities. Dealers do this to add weight, selling less actual cocaine for more money. The variation of these substances is what makes it more dangerous to consume. 

Aside from the chemical cutting agents mention previously, cocaine can be mixed with amphetamines, caffeine, and methylphenidates. Local anesthetics like ibuprofen, procaine, and lidocaine can simulate the numbing effect. At the same time, levamisole (an animal dewormer) is commonly mixed in with the drug because it’s inexpensive and has similar effects. These substances are dangerous in small amounts, and mixing them can produce unexpected and often frightening results.


Why is Cocaine Legal in Some Countries?

Before we go any further, know this, cocaine is still highly illegal to consume or possess in almost every country. Probably in the country you’re reading this from.

That being said, while every country has banned the sale of cocaine for recreational use, some have decriminalised it for possession, personal use, transportation, and cultivation. Others have decriminalized it for certain uses.

Cocaine is used for some surgical procedures (mainly eye and nose operations and thus it is legal for surgeons to use it in those circumstances. There is nowhere in the world where it is legal for general use. This is because cocaine is prohibited under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (even though cocaine is not a narcotic).


Countries Where Cocaine Is Legal (Sort of)

Netherlands - Unenforced (small amounts)

Cocaine is considered an illegal hard-drug. Possession, production and trade are not allowed as stated in the Opium Law of 1928. Although technically illegal, possession of less than half a gram usually goes unpunished. 


Switzerland - Possession of small amounts decriminalized

Traffickers of cocaine are sentenced with jail. Personal use is punished with a fine, contrary to common belief possession of up to 18 grams is not legal. According to a recent study, 5 Swiss cities (St Gallen, Bern, Zurich, Basel and Geneva) were listed among the top 10 European cities for cocaine use Personal consumption and possession of small amounts, or sharing with adults free of charge is not liable to prosecution based on Swiss federal law.


United States - Legal Medically, decriminalized in the state of Oregon

Cocaine is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. It remains legal for medical use. While personal use has been decriminalized in Oregon, sales are still illegal.


Germany - Legal Medically, Decriminalized

Possession of cocaine without a medical prescription is illegal. Small amounts for personal consumption may go unpunished for first-time or non-regular offenders, however, this varies by province. 


Peru - Legal (up to 2 grams of cocaine or 5 grams of cocaine-freebase)

Cultivation of coca plants is legal, and coca leaves are sold openly on markets. Similarly to Bolivia, chewing leaves and drinking coca tea are cultural practices. Possession of up to 2 grams of cocaine or up to 5 grams of coca paste is legal for personal use in Peru per Article 299 of the Peruvian Penal Code. It is important to note that if a person possesses two or more kinds of drugs at the same time it is considered a criminal offence.


Columbia - Legal (up to 1 Gram)

Since 1994, possession of 1 gram of cocaine has been legal for personal use. Sale remains illegal, but personal production or gifts of cocaine are permitted.


Mexico - Legal (up to 1 Gram)

There is no penalty for carrying up to 1/2 a gram, however, any amount over that is illegal.


Bolivia -  Decriminalized up to less than 50 grams

Limited private cultivation of coca is legal in Bolivia, where chewing the leaves and drinking coca tea are considered cultural practices, in particular in the mountainous regions. Processed cocaine is illegal but decriminalized up to less than 50 grams. 


Portugal - Decriminalized up to 2 grams

Personal use of cocaine is decriminalized. Drug abuse is dealt with by administrative and medical intervention. Trafficking is illegal. 


Argentina - Decriminalized for private use

The consumption and possession of fresh coca leaves for chewing and teas are legal.


Brazil- Decriminalized for private use

Public consumption and selling of cocaine are considered crimes. Punishments for public consumption include a warning about the drugs effects, community service (5 to 10 months), and educational courses or programs. Punishment for the selling of cocaine is 5 to 15 years of jail, a R$500–1,500 fine and course or program attendance. The decision on which purpose the apprehended drug had is based on the judge’s decision.


Greece -  Decriminalized for private use

Use, possession and cultivation of class B drugs is illegal in Greece except for medical reasons. Personal use might be decriminalized. Use in public is also illegal. 


The Czech Republic - Decriminalised (up to 1 gram)

Possession of up to 1 gram for personal use is punishable by fines of up to 15000 CZK according to act 167/1998 §39, possession of a higher amount is illegal according to the Criminal code with up to 2-year sentence. Trafficking is punishable by 2–18 years in prison, depending on the scale and other circumstances.