Coca is known throughout the world for its psychoactive alkaloid, cocaine. The alkaloid content of coca leaves is relatively low, between 0.25% and 0.77%. The native people use coca leaves for a stimulant, like coffee, or an energy source or both. Coca-Cola used coca leaf extract in its products from 1885 and until about 1903. In certain South American countries, commercially manufactured coca teas, granola bars, cookies, hard candies, etc. are available in most stores and supermarkets, including upscale suburban supermarkets.
I have handled Coca Tea cases in the past. There is abundant scientific literature and even military cases that discuss how Coca Tea can cause a positive military urinalysis drug test for BZE (the metabolite of cocaine) above the DoD Cutoff level (100 ng/ml). Coca Tea can be a valid defense to a positive urinalysis for BZE (cocaine) so long as the evidence supports innocent ingestion.
I recently had a case that involved an herbal supplement marketed as “All Natural Coca Concentrated Ultra Energy.” The “supplement” contained clear capsules with a green-herbal looking powder in side. My client obtained these at a popular market from a vendor selling vitamins, proteins, and various supplements. My client, a senior enlisted member, never made a connection between “Coca” and cocaine. One morning, late in the week, the client popped a few of the pills prior to reporting for duty. The client had previously taken the pills and the result was a “5 hour energy-like” energy boost. That afternoon, however, the client was called to give a random urinalysis. A few weeks later the test came back positive for BZE (cocaine).
The client contacted me right away, and was very vocal about his/her non-use of cocaine. I advised not to make any statements until we were able to figure out what happened. A few days later, we met at my office and the client retained me. I sent the client off for a hair test at Quest Diagnostics with a chain of custody. I also told the client to go back and figure out what the client was exposed to/ingested at or near the time of the urinalysis. We discussed the testing procedures but didn’t find any issues that would absolutely undermine the reliability of the test. A few days later, the client contacted me with the supplement name that he thought may have caused the positive urinalysis.
I contacted a forensic laboratory who agreed to test the supplement on client’s behalf. A few days later, we packaged a portion of the supplement and sent it to the lab. A week later the hair test came back negative. Though a hair drug test is not great at identifying a one-time recreational use of cocaine, it is absolutely fantastic at detecting long-term, chronic abuse. The test goes 90 days back.
Also, we had the client pull his credit card statements to support his assertion as to how he came in possession of the supplement and to corroborate his testimony. A few weeks later, the test results came back – cocaine was present in the supplement. We had our innocent ingestion defense.
To make sure we left no stone un-turned, I sent an investigator to the market to try and find the vendor. Even though the vendor was no longer there, the investigator drafted a statement that we used at the administrative separation board so we could show the efforts we made to corroborate our defense. I also sent a pictures of the supplement to a DEA friend, and used the email as an exhibit at the administrative separation board.
On the day of the administrative separation board, the recorder/command presented the positive urinalysis results for cocaine (BZE). We agreed with the results, and then presented our overwhelming case of innocent ingestion which was corroborated by witnesses, financial documentation, and laboratory reports.
After 10 minutes of deliberations, the board unanimously found that my client had not illegally used cocaine, and he was exonerated.
Attorney Patrick Korody is a former Navy JAG who specializes in defensed servicemembers who fail military drug tests/urinalysis. He has successfully defended members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard who have tested positive for drugs. He offers a free case consultation.