A small chemical processing plant hidden in a quiet neighborhood of New Jersey has an exclusive license to import coca leaves into the US on behalf of The Coca-Cola Company and manufactures as much as $2 billion of pure cocaine every year.
The leaves are used to produce a ‘decocainized’ ingredient for the iconic soda and the cocaine byproduct is sold to the nation’s largest opioid manufacturer, which markets the powder as a numbing agent and topical anesthetic for dentists. The unassuming facility in Maywood has been processing coca leaves for Coca-Cola for over 100 years and is now run by a chemical manufacturer called Stepan Company.
It operates under special licenses issued to it by the DEA and is the only company in the US permitted to import coca leaves and manufacture cocaine.
And just this year, on January 30, Stepan successfully renewed its petition for permission to continue importing the controlled substance into the US. Five hundred tons of leaves might produce something in the region of two million grams of cocaine – which, according to pharmaceutical company listings online, could be worth around $2 billion.
The coca leaf is the plant source of cocaine and is used to illegally manufacture the drug in parts of south America, including Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. It has been illegal to import the leaves to the US since 1921. Nonetheless, The Coca-Cola Company, now worth around $265 billion, has imported the ‘controlled substance’ freely for the last century. In that time, as governments have strived to crack down on the notorious coca plant, the company miraculously avoided restriction.