In March 1995, the WHO and UNICRI announced the publication of the results of a global study on cocaine. Information had been collected in 22 cities and 19 countries about the use of the coca leaf and its derivatives, its effects on consumers and the community as a whole, and the answers of the governments concerned to the cocaine problem. Preparations for the research began in 1991. Over more than two years, three sub-projects were developed which “proposed to collect up-to-date information about cocaine at regional and national levels.” The study was never published despite being “the largest study ever on cocaine use.”
Reference to the study can be found in the UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Institute of Crime Investigation) library, where it is still marked as “RESTRICTED” 
The Director of the PSA, Hans Emblad, sent a copy of the Briefing Kit to the United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP), where it caused a sensation. Two months later, on 9 May 1995 in Commission B of the forty-eighth General Health Assembly, the destiny of these years of labour was determined by the intervention of the representative of the United States of America, Mr Boyer. He expressed his government’s concern with the results of this study: “which seem to make a case for the positive uses of cocaine, claiming that use of the coca leaf did not lead to noticeable damage to mental or physical health, that the positive health effects of coca leaf chewing might be transferable from traditional settings to other countries and cultures and that coca production provides financial benefits to peasants”.
The representative said that his government considered suspending funds to WHO research if “activities related to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches.” In reply, the representative of the Director General defended the study claiming it was “an important and objective analyses done by the experts”, which “represented the views of the experts, and did not represent the stated policy position of the WHO, and WHO’s continuing policy, which was to uphold the scheduling under the convention.” It was not the intention to publish the study in its current form, the representative explained as it might lead to “misunderstanding.” The debate concluded with agreement on a peer review by “genuine experts.”
“The United States Government considered that, if WHO activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programmes should be curtailed. In view of the gravity of the matter, he asked the Director-General for an assurance that WHO would dissociate itself from the conclusions of the study and that, in substance abuse activities, an approach would not be adopted that could be used to justify the continued production of coca.”
Peer review is a fundamental part of every scientific study, including those of the WHO. The timeline set for the peer review procedure was programmed in the terms of reference as to be concluded by 30 September 1997. In fact, from March 1995, names of potential researchers were listed and, in accordance with procedure, sent to the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in charge of selecting the candidates. Over the course of almost two years, an intensive fax exchange took place whereby the PSA proposed names and NIDA answered by refusing each and every one of them.
There has been no formal end to this ‘Cocaine Initiative’. The majority of the participating scientists never heard what was done with their work.
The document was obtained by the unaligned think tank, the Transnational Institute.
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