UNITED STATES - JUNE 01:  In 1896, the American chemist John Pemberton developed Coca-Cola, the ingredients of which included cocaine and kola nut extract, which contains caffeine. Within a few years, Coca-Cola and similar drinks had caused widespread cocaine addiction in America and so, in 1906, the cocaine in the Coca-Cola recipe was replaced with extra caffeine.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

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Coca-Cola Is Still In The Cocaine Business
The "coca" in Coca-Cola is from "coca" leaves, which also contain the potent cocaine alkaloid, but back when Coca-Cola began, cocaine wasn't a strange ingredient to include. While the soft drink no longer contains cocaine, the company is still in the business of importing coca leaves, and creating cocaine in order to produce its iconic soft drink.

At the end of the 19th century, there were no laws banning the importation or consumption of cocaine, and the drug was very popular. As time went on, opposition to the drug grew, and cocaine was declared illegal in 1914; however, the legislation includes a special exemption for coca leaves imported for the decocainized form used by Coca-Cola.

The legally imported leaves are processed at Maywood Chemical Corp in Northern New Jersey, where they take the Ecgonine alkaloid out of the leaves so that Coca-Cola can use those decocainized leaves to make Coca-Cola. But in order to take the cocaine out of the leaves, you need to isolate the cocaine, creating pure forms of the drug.
Some of this cocaine is utilized for medicinal purposes, while the extra cocaine is destroyed under the supervision of the DEA. Ironically, coca leaves do not contain large quantities of cocaine, and today’s coke contains only small quantities of coca leaf, so if Coke left the coca leaves in its beverage without decocainizing it, we'd likely be none the wiser.