07/01/12 Ethan Nadelmann

Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy Alliance + Michel Kazatchkine re Global Commission report on AIDS, Terry Nelson of LEAP & Daniel Robello of DPA re forthcoming Caravan for Peace

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Alliance



Cultural Baggage / July 1, 2012


Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: And we have a great show for you today. We’re going to start with release of a report from the Global Commission on Drugs dealing with the subject of AIDS.

This is from a major teleconference featuring presidents and other notables from around the world. To introduce the discussion Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann.


ETHAN NADELMANN: For the release of the report “The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic.”

My name is Ethan Nadelmann. I’m the founder and Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance which has worked very closely the Global Commission on Drug Policy since and actually before the release of its major report on the global drug war last year.

It’s an incredibly distinguished group of people on this created by Presidents Cardoso, Gaviria and Zedillo from Latin America. But also including people like George Shultz, Paul Volcker from the United States, Javier Solano from Europe and a number of the speakers who are on the phone today.

This is the second significant report released in anticipation of the upcoming AIDS conference in Washington, D.C. in a few weeks and the global commissioner felt it was important to make the link between the global war on drugs and the failed prohibitionist regime and the growing problem or the spreading problem of HIV/AIDS.

So, I want to mention our speakers first. Michel Kazatchkine who for many years was the remarkable Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The speaker, Michel Kazatchkine, why don’t you start.

MICHEL KAZATCHKINE Let me start my remarks with a few figures and numbers.

Injecting drug use accounts for 1/3 of new HIV infections that occur outside sub-Saharan Africa. Globally there is an estimated 16 million people who inject illegal drugs of who one in five is infected with HIV. This is an average.

The HIV prevalence that is the percentage of people who inject drugs who are HIV positive ranges from 12/15% in China and in the U.S. to over 35% in the Russian Federation.

Whereas the AIDS epidemic then appears to have stabilized with the number of new infections steadily decreasing for the last ten years and fewer AIDS-related deaths occurring because of the scale up of treatment. Several regions and countries in the world do not fit that overall trend.

Of the 7 countries that UN Aid reported have witnessed an increase in HIV incidents by more than 25% in the last 10 years, 5 are in the Eastern European and Central Asian region. But transmission through injecting drug use accounts for over 60% of the epidemic and where the War on Drugs is actually fought with little or no focus on harm reduction and public health oriented policies.

So it is in this context that the Global Commission is calling today on the world, on national leaders, on all UN Aids entities and agencies to now acknowledge and address the causal links between the War on Drugs, criminalization of drug use, criminalization of users and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

So, clearly, in people who inject drugs and their sexual partners the AIDS epidemic continues to be a public health emergency and the world is not addressing that emergency despite the evidence that harm reduction strategies are highly effective in preventing new infections in people who inject drugs and the evidence that several countries has succeeded in drastically reducing HIV incidence and prevalence among injectors - among those countries Switzerland and Ruth Dreifuss will discuss that in a few minutes.

Harm reduction is a package of interventions - not just one intervention. It’s needle exchange programs, alternate substitution therapy, safe injection sites, information and education, overdose prevention and engagement of people who use drugs in the diffusion making processes.

The evidence that it is effective in reducing health harm links associated with drug abuse is comprehensive, compelling and conclusive. However, to be implemented, and Ruth, again, will discuss it in a minute – it requires a collectively, politically and socially accepted shift in policies that the Global Commission is calling for also today.

We know that the economic slow down will actually have a disproportionate impact of the stigmatized and marginalized crooks and the poorest segments of the society including a potential risk of seeing an increase in use of problematic drugs and injection rates.

So our message, the message of the commission, is that prohibition law enforcement has failed in its primary goals of eradicating drug use and protecting people’s health. As said in the report and in last year’s report trends in use has consistently. Illegal drugs have become cheaper and more available. HIV/AIDS and other health risks associated with drug use have increased and prohibition policies have actually been shifting the market so there is more potent and risky products and also somehow encouraging high-risk behaviors including injections in unsupervised and unhygienic environments.

Prohibition law enforcement have led to a true war on users with numerous human rights abuses. People who use drugs who are arrested or suspected for drug offences are often, in many countries, reported to be subject to police harassment, police violence, misuse of power, money extortion.

The fear of stigma drives drug users underground, away from prevention services, away from information, away from access to care and medical services. As a result it is estimated that only 4 of every 100 injectors that are HIV positive and would need access to treatment actually access antiviral treatment. This is ten times less than the 40% coverage that the world has achieved in access to treatment in low and middle-income countries worldwide.

Our report also focuses on mass incarceration. As you well know incarceration for minor drug-related offences is one of the main reasons behind the increase in prison populations. And, at the same time, it is well documented that incarceration is, by itself, a risk factor for acquiring HIV through syringe sharing or unprotected sex.

In the U.S. I understand that about 2.4 million people in U.S. jails and prisons. It is estimated that 25% of people living with HIV and 30% of those living with Hepatitis C have spent some time in correctional facilities. And the disproportionate incarceration rate of African Americans, including for drug offences, is one of the key reasons, as pointed out in the report, for markedly elevated rates of infections in that population.

Finally, our report discusses how AIDS has spread because public health approaches to drug policies have been often ignored or, at least, not implemented of the scale that would have been needed. The emphasis on drug law enforcement has created legal barriers to evidence-based HIV prevention measures such as the provision of clean syringes or methadone maintenance therapy.

Only 8 of every 100 injectors currently receive alternative substance therapy in the world. Methadone is illegal in Russia and limited in many countries particularly in the former Soviet Block.

And the U.S. congress, as you will know, has recently reinstated the ban of federal funding on syringe exchange programs internally and abroad. That was two years after the ban had been lifted – the ban that had been there for 20 years, I understand.

So what can do? The commission calls for acting urgently. We’re saying one cannot improve health through a war. This is an epidemic – the AIDS epidemic in people who inject drugs that we could actually control. If we are to stand any chance of reducing HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50% by 2015 (which was the commitment of the UN General Assembly last year and of all members of the General Assembly) we really need to open up, to step up the mark and to change our ways.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohbition. More of the same tired old drug war rhetoric from our drug czar. You might believe this junk if you had only heard it once; but we have been fed this story continiously for the past four decades.

The Peruvian Times reports The head of the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, says that Peru’s growing cocaine production is a serious concern but that President Ollanta Humala has made a commitment to reducing the supply. In an interview with Peruvian newspaper El Comercio,

Kerlikowske would not say whether the United States would increase funding to Peru for anti-drug efforts. “I can’t respond to whether the United States government will or will not provide more funds to Peru for its anti-drug fight, but what I can note is that there is a financial crisis in the U.S., while Peru is experiencing good moments in its economy,” Kerlikowske said. Sounds like they asked him for more money does it not?

The Huffington Post repots that Peru's struggle with a resurgent cocaine trade is in the spotlight as it hosts nearly 60 nations in conference on illicit drugs beginning Monday. The Andean country's cocaine production likely now exceeds Colombia's, making it the world's No. 1 source of the illicit drug, the United States and United Nations say.
President Ollanta Humala said when he took office a year ago that he'd make the drug war a priority, and his government announced an ambitious antinarcotics plan in March. So far, though, the corrupting influence of drug money has badly weakened Peru's law enforcement agencies and judiciary, consistently frustrating money-laundering and drug prosecutions, says the counter-narcotics chief in the attorney general's office, Sonia Medina.

"There is a paralysis at the moment" she said last week, with honest, committed judges and prosecutors scant.

In October, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence chief Rodney Benson said Peru surpassed Colombia in 2010 "in potential pure cocaine production" and was at about 325 metric tons a year compared to 270 metric tons from Colombia.

From 2006 to 2010, the area under coca cultivation in Peru jumped 35 percent to 236 square miles (61,200 hectares), the U.N. says. That's s double the size of the crop in Bolivia, the No. 3 cocaine-producing nation.

This is irrefutable proof that the baloon theory is alive and well. Squeeze in one country and production incredes in another. Shut down part of our border and the smugglers move to a different area. And our governments policy is to throw more money at this failed policy.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (www.globalcommissionondrugs.org) has just released it new report and call for a change of policy very similar to LEAPs. LEAP believes that to Legalize, regulate and control these substances is the better policy towards reducing crime and violence in the world and education and treatment is the best policy for drug abuse. This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com signing off. Stay safe.


(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Here to help us regarding a powerful side effect is U.S. Congressman Jared Polis asking the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration some very important questions.

JARED POLIS: Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I believe all illegal drugs are bad…

JARED POLIS: Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I don’t think any illegal…

JARED POLIS: Is heroin worse for someone’s heath than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Again, all illegal…

JARED POLIS: Yes, no or I don’t know. I mean, if you don’t know you can look this up. You should know as the Chief Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency. I am asking you a very straight forward question.

Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: All illegal drugs are bad…


Time’s up…for the DEA.


DEAN BECKER: You know it seems there’s more and more good news breaking these days along with all the bad news about the drug war and here to tell us about what’s going on in the nation of Colombia is the Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, Dean, there was a very interesting development this morning where the Colombian’s constitutional court ruled that the effort by President Santos to decriminalize drug possession is, indeed, constitutional.

This is important because it provides support to the efforts by President Santos and other allies in drug policy reform in Colombia to move the government’s policies in the right direction. And it simultaneously represents a very significant repudiation of President Santos’ predecessor Alvaro Uribe who was really persistent and somewhat anal in pushing for the criminalization of drug use in Colombia when he was president.

DEAN BECKER: Which drugs are they talking about?

ETHAN NADELMANN: My understanding is that it’s not just marijuana and also includes cocaine and I’m not sure if it includes all other drugs as well.

But I think essentially what you find, Dean, is that in many countries these constitutions (this is not just in Latin America but also in Europe) they have a more expansive view of personal autonomy and human rights when which is seen as inappropriate for the state, for the government to deprive people of their freedoms simply for the possession of small amounts of a substance to be used only by yourself.

Now, going way back to 1994 you had high courts both in Germany and Colombia who came down with quite similar decisions. So there are some earlier precedence to this.

In the case of Colombia you have President Uribe when he was in power for many years vigorously tried to overturn this and there was an extensive political and legal fight in Colombia. So I’m hoping that this decision by the Colombian Constitutional Court represents the end of that struggle.

But there was similarly in Argentina. I think it was 2009 or 2010 – a similar Supreme Court decision. It was a similar finding. In Brazil you had a lower court finding in a similar sort of way. So you have not just at the judicial level but also at a political level coming from both presidents and from national legislatures a real push towards ending the criminalization of drug possession at least under national law.

DEAN BECKER: As I indicated early on there even in these United States the city of Chicago has at least taken a small step towards recognizing the futility of our marijuana laws, right?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, you know it’s true, Dean. In the United States where you see the momentum in terms of legislative reform is on marijuana possession. You know there was the ballot initiative in Massachusetts in 2008 to significantly decriminalize marijuana. Then, in California, Governor Schwarzenegger signed…California was already among the 11 states that had decriminalized marijuana back in the 70s but Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law in the Fall of 2010 that essentially reduced it from a misdemeanor to an infraction – an even lower offence.

Now some people said he did that in order to undermine the momentum of the legalization initiative that was on the ballot that year – Prop 19 – but, either way, it was a significant reform.

Then last year the state of Connecticut decriminalized marijuana and just a few months ago the state of Rhode Island moved in that direction. And many of your listeners may be aware last month, or was it earlier this month, Governor Cuomo in New York proposed a further decriminalization of marijuana. And then last week…or yesterday…two days ago the Chicago city council approved a proposal there by the mayor there, Rahm Emanuel, to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Now it’s worth pointing out that sometimes these are motivated not just by the sort of reformist instinct that you and I have. They’re sometimes motivated by the realization that the city is wasting money on marijuana arrests or that police are being diverted from more serious crime or that maybe that by changing marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction for which people can be ticketed that might actually be a revenue raiser for the city rather than a revenue coster. So there’s all sorts of mixed motivations.

The bigger struggle in the U.S., of course, is with regards to possession of drugs other than marijuana. And right now I think 37 states treat the possession of other drugs as a felony for which you are sent to prison for years. And 13 states and Washington, D.C. and federal law treat possession of other drugs (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc.) as a misdemeanor but even in those cases you can be sent to jail for up to a year.

Now, that’s a bigger push we have to do on that front. There was a significant effort in California in recent months to try to reduce possession of drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor and it did not get through the California Assembly. We’ll be back with a coalition on that issue next year. So we have a long way to go in the U.S. until we can be claiming to have as cost effective and sensible and humane policy as many parts of Latin America and, for that matter, Europe.

DEAN BECKER: You know it’s been said many times that the drug war is a luxury that we can no longer afford and that’s proving to be true, isn’t it?

ETHAN NADELMANN: What you see, Dean, is more and more people and, for that matter, more and more elected officials, including Republican governors, just reaching the conclusion that we can no longer afford to keep spending what we’ve been spending on incarceration and that the first area where we can start to reduce incarceration is with respect to non-violent drug offenders.

I was struck that there was a recent report that just came out from the U.S. Sentencing Project called “Trends in U.S. Correction.” For people want to find it just go to http://sentencingproject.org They have some wonderful tables about incarceration overall and incarceration for drug offences. They show the dramatic increase over the last 30 years. They show the leveling off and even the decline over the last couple of years but the really telling stat is when you look at their chart on expenses that the state expends on correction it rose from 6.7 billion dollars in 1985 to 51.1 billion dollars in 2010. So from 6 million in 85 to 51 billion in 2010 – that’s a big chunk in a very fast growing item in many state budgets.

So it’s not just liberals or progressives or Libertarians who are saying, “Uh, let’s reduce the incarceration rate and especially for non-violent drug offenders.” It’s a lot of governors from both parties that feel the need to cut those outrageous expenditures in this area.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Ethan, I saw some of those charts there at the Sentencing Project and they look like a very steep and dangerous ski slope with that rise in cost and incarceration.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, I think it’s true. You know some of these are fixed cost and some of these are pension cost and these numbers are going to be hard to bring down and what we don’t see, of course, on these things is the projected cost is nothing changes.

I think what some of the governors are looking at are projected cost and they realize that there’s so much inertia behind this growth of the prison industrial system that this is going to be very hard to turn around.

So, you know, it’s great to look at the numbers where you see for the first time in the last few years…I think last year was the first year in many decades in which half the states actually reduced their state prison populations. So there is a turning around but we have to be careful because sometimes what you see are states are pushing people out of state prisons but local jails are increasing their population.

And then, of course, there’s this sort of insidious growth of surveillance of people outside the prison, you know, through electronic surveillance and GPS devices and parole and probation. You know, obviously, if one is in that position it’s better to be outside of prison than inside but I do worry that over the next 10 years we will see a continuing modest decline in incarcerated population in the United States but a very significant increase (much more than proportional increase) in the number of people under the superveillance of the criminal justice system.


DEAN BECKER: The Caravan for Peace in the U.S. and Mexico is coming to a city near you this summer.

DANIEL ROBELLO: The Drug Policy Alliance is proud to be a part of this historic, bi-national mobilization. Probably the largest mobilization of civil society in the history of both countries – Mexico and the United States – to end this drug war that has killed over 70,000 people, caused tens of thousands of people to be disappeared and caused tens of thousands of orphans in Mexico as well as in the United States.

Folks are dying here also due to drug prohibition violence but also mass incarceration. As your listeners know we have about 5% of the world’s population but just about 25% of the world’s prison population.

These failed prohibitionist policies are just causing millions of lives lost, hundreds of thousands of families broken and lives destroyed on both sides of the border.

So this caravan is linking up civil society as well as family members of victims on both sides of the border to travel across the United States over 6,000 miles, traveling to 20 cities or more to bring this message that we need to end these failed prohibitionist policies and we need to put all options on the table for alternatives including various options for decriminalization and for drug regulation to try and reduce the violence, the power of these criminal trafficking organizations that have really eroded the social fabric of both countries.

DEAN BECKER: My friends that’s the voice of Daniel Robello of the Drug Policy Alliance and there is going to be a major Caravan for Peace here in these United States. It’s going to start in Mexico, Tijuana on August 12 th and make its way across the country, as Daniel said, to many major American cities.

Daniel, how can folks learn more about this caravan? How can they get involved?

DANIEL ROBELLO: They can visit http://globalexchange.org There will also be information on our website, http://www.drugpolicy.org

A website will be launching specifically for the caravan, http://caravanforpeace.org I think it has not yet launched but they can also find more information at the Movement for Peace, Justice and Dignity. We’re so proud to be working with our neighbors in Mexico who have suffered so much and our so courageously leading this bi-national effort.

Movimiento por la paz, justicia y dignidad - Movement for Peace, Justice and Dignity

DEAN BECKER: And this is going to be a couple of busses loaded with folks from Mexico as well as representatives from the NAACP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and many others on this speaking tour, correct?

DANIEL ROBELLO: That’s correct. There’ll be at least 2 busses – about 80 family members of victims and activists and their friends from Mexico and from all over the country. Then they’ll be joined by dozens and dozens of community and grassroots organizations throughout these United States.

DEAN BECKER: Daniel, I feel truthfully that the time is right. We are beginning to see changes in our perspectives, changes in our policy even here in these United States. States and cities are calling for these type changes and I think there are lots of folks out there who have been aware for this need for change that have been afraid to speak…have been afraid to call for that change but the time is now. The time is ripe, isn’t it?

DANIEL ROBELLO: It sure is. Really we can’t afford to wait any longer as the movement has said, “ni una muerte más” And not one more member of our community locked up, thrown in a cage, incarcerated, deported, criminalized, marginalized just for what they might have chosen to put into their bodies.


DEAN BECKER: Hopefully you enjoyed today’s program and it will motivate you to do something about this God damn drug war. Please be sure to check out Century of Lies which follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations. We’ll be interviewing Joseph McNamara, former police chief of Kansas City about his most recent book, “Love and Death in Silicon Valley".

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org