It’s hard to believe but it’s already May 8th which means it’s “National Have Some Coke Day.” For the Philistines out there, this day honors one of the Western Hemisphere’s most cherished treasures-the coca leaf. According to the site The Foundation for a Drug-Free World:
Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, ancient Incas in the Andes chewed coca leaves to get their hearts racing and to speed their breathing to counter the effects of living in thin mountain air.
Native Peruvians chewed coca leaves only during religious ceremonies. This taboo was broken when Spanish soldiers invaded Peru in 1532. Forced Indian laborers in Spanish silver mines were kept supplied with coca leaves because it made them easier to control and exploit.
Leave it to the white man to turn coca into cocaine, leading to all sorts of crazy hijinks. In 1863, Angelo Mariani concocted a combination of wine and coca. According to Recovery.org Mariani:
brewed coca leaves in Bordeaux wine. The combination was meant to cover the bitterness of the leaves, but the greater effect was the ethanol of the wine acting as a solvent for the cocaine alkaloid. Coca use was by that time growing for all sorts of reasons—as a digestive, as a mood enhancer, as a cure for aches and ails—and Vin Mariani soon earned distinguished advocates and a massive following.
The potent potable proved popular:
The drink, which contained around 6 milligrams of cocaine per ounce, was so acclaimed that Pope Leo XIII officially recognized it with a Vatican medal.6 He was far from being the only well-known historical figure with an affection for Vin Mariani — let alone the only pope. Other notable fans included Queen Victoria of England, Presidents Ulysses Grant and William McKinley, and Thomas Edison. Many authors of the day also swore by it, including Alexandre Dumas, Emila Zola, and Jules Verne.
Over time, scientists experimented with cocaine. Like many drugs (which is why people familiar with history are always wary when a “wonder drug” is unveiled) cocaine’s advantages and disadvantages were unknown. Over time, scientists would create cocaine hydrochloride, which is used to snort or inject cocaine. Not to be outdone, Americans got in on the cocaine game, with the article “The History of Cocaine Around the World and in the U.S.” noting:
American advances in cocaine would soon follow, both commercially and medically. A pioneer in U.S. medicine, William Halsted, read about Koller’s success with cocaine and conducted his own trials with the drug as a nerve block for use in surgery.9 The American version of Vin Mariani would also arrive on the scene in the 1880s: Coca-Cola
As often happens in society, we can’t have anything nice and before long, cocaine’s ugly side showed up, leading to the drug being made illegal except in limited medical uses. With “the real real thing” available at your local drug store and in convenient home kits, it’s no surprise that cocaine addiction became widespread with some figures as high as hundreds of thousands of people. One thing led to another and before you knew it, cocaine was on Santa’s and the government’s naughty list. Nonetheless, cocaine remains the second most-used drug in the United States which may explain why today is National “Have Some Coke Day.”
While laws against cocaine remain strong, the state of Oregon decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cocaine in 2020 (and incredibly, even heroin). So you if you want to have some coke and a smile, fly out to Oregon.
Editor’s Note: Today is National Have a Coke Day, in honor of John Pemberton’s invention of Coca-Cola. Pro Sports Extra is not responsible for the author’s misperception. It also highly (no pun intended) cautions against the use of illegal drugs, especially by pro athletes playing for teams we wager on.