The Americas

Bolivia proposes prison time for illegal coca production

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2016 file photo, coca grows in the Villa Nueva community of Chimore, Bolivia. Bolivia's government announced on Sept. 2, 2016 that it's proposing a law to punish illegal growers of coca with up to three years of prison time. Illegal cultivators currently do not face prison in a country where the plant has many traditional uses and the president is a former coca farmer. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2016 file photo, coca grows in the Villa Nueva community of Chimore, Bolivia. Bolivia's government announced on Sept. 2, 2016 that it's proposing a law to punish illegal growers of coca with up to three years of prison time. Illegal cultivators currently do not face prison in a country where the plant has many traditional uses and the president is a former coca farmer. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File)  (The Associated Press)

Bolivia's government is proposing a law to punish illegal growers of coca with prison time.

Bolivian Vice Minister for Social Defense Felipe Caceres announced the legislation Friday while touring illegal coca crops in a remote area. The plant is used to make cocaine.

Carceres says the proposal will be sent to the Legislative Assembly and it would carry a penalty of up to three years imprisonment for illegal coca cultivation.

Illegal cultivators of coca currently do not face prison time in a country where the plant has many traditional uses.

Bolivian President Evo Morales is a former coca farmer who rose to power supporting legalization of the plant for traditional purposes. There are about 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land in Bolivia where the plant can be grown legally.