12/18/19 Justice Tettey

Century of Lies
Justice Tettey
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, UNODC's Justice Tettey, PhD, talks about new psychoactive substances, plus we bid farewell to UNODC's outgoing executive director Yuri Fedotov.

Audio file



DECEMBER 18, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization – the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of www.drugwarfacts.org.

On December 12th and 13th the Commission on Narcotic Drugs held its reconvened 62nd session it was held in Vienna once again they webcast live. They do have a copy of these proceedings on the YouTube, however it's an unlisted video so unless you can find the URL, you can't watch or listen. They still have a lot to learn when it comes two transparency and considering this is the United Nations you would think they would understand stuff like that. Oh well. In the meantime I went ahead and got a copy of the proceedings and I am going to be bringing some of that to you today. First up the big news which is that the Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Yuri Fedotov, is stepping down. The new Executive Director of UNODC is Ghada Fathi Waly of Egypt. So right now let’s hear the farewell address of Yuri Fedotov.

YURI FEDOTOV: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Everything has a beginning and its end and today I am addressing you for the last time. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNINTELLIGIBLE) able to provide full support to you, the Commission on quitting drugs. Our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) experience we pass through the preparation and important meeting of 2014 high level review, in August of 2016 another important benchmark, and finally this year the Ministerial segment of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the ministerial declaration.

We have worked together to put these commitments in to effective practice to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) balance this process to the (WRONG) drug problem that are based on evidence and focused on health. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) international cooperation to address challenges across the UN pillars of peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development.

I am very proud of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has benefitted from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the recognition of our work and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, to thank your country for their support. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in this nine years of intensive work to protect the humanity, the human kind from the worldwide problem. New rules have changed and created in terms of funding but even as regular budget resources have decreased, we have been able to rely on your voluntary contributions to ensure that we could continue delivering the expectations to the high standards that we and member states expect. However, our delivery has come under increased pressure as the entire UN Secretariat faces severe budget challenges. To continue providing support to you, to people in the field we need predictable and stable financial resources and that is very important. We rely on you, we rely on your understanding, and your support.

In terms of our operations, I often say at UNODC as we can only deliver in the field through our global, regional, and country programs. When we committed to seeing through the forms implemented of priorities and support enabling an inclusive work environment that includes and retains a highly skilled, competent, geographically diverse, and gender balanced staff.

We rely on your commission to support the finding of sustainable long term solutions to our financial situation. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The commission on quitting drugs as well as the commission on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) criminal justice as many of you are representing your countries in both commissions it remains a clear example of multilateralism in action during a time when the rate of consensus has come under question. The work of the Commissions based on what we call a famous period of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provides irrefutable evidence that preparation based on shared commitments is the only sustainable response to shared challenges. I have no doubt that working together you will continue to find common grounds and to develop common solutions; that is highly important. (DOC AND THEIR COLLEAGUES) have lost no time in taking forward the commitments of the administrative declaration and before the (UNINTELLIGLE) with the adoption of multiyear work plan and concrete timeline. I welcome these sort of steps to strengthen integrated comprehensive responses to the world drug problem and UNODC is here to support you. You can always count on our support and our assistance.

Your session will have on its agenda urgent drug control issues facing the international community. I would like to wish you every success in your liberation and also in your future work with my successor and I hope she will also get support from you. Thank you very much once again and I will be able to see you privately in the next life. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Yuri Fedotov, the outgoing Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime giving a farewell address to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs which met for a reconvened 62nd session in Vienna, Austria December 12th and 13th. This is Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay. Now let’s hear a presentation by Justice Tettey, PhD. Dr. Tettey heads up the laboratory and scientific section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

JUSTICE TETTEY: The international drug control system experienced a defining moment at the start of this decade with an unprecedented emergence of new psychoactive substances. These are substances which are not under international control but which produce the same effects as those under control. Today over 110 countries and territories worldwide have been affected. An (UNINTELLIGIBLE) noted a number of these substances have been associated with harms and adverse events such as fatalities and emergency room admissions.

At the peak of this problem in 2015, at least one new substance appeared on global markets each week. Today the number of MPS reported each year on global markets as civilized. However, you can see from the charts that it remains at a very high level of about 550 substances on global markets each year. As of this morning, 930 unique substances have been reported to UNODC from countries and territories worldwide.

UNODC has been very nimble in its response to these challenges in drug control. Our tools have evolved and have been refined to offer effective forward looking strategies. Strategies which are called the basic tenant of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) International Drug Control Conventions and that is protecting the health and welfare of humankind. In 2013, UNODC established the first group of early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Today it features a network of over 282 national drug testing laboratories in 90 countries. It has over 21,000 unique data points of information on MPS from over 120 countries including substance related fatalities, emergency room admissions, and drug use and driving.

Multiple disciplinary resources including national legislative responses. Pharmacology and toxicology data and analytical information to aid in identification of substances. We have also built on strong partnerships. Partnerships with the law enforcement and forensic communities in countries with international and regional organizations such as the International Narcotics Control Board, the World Health Organization, Organization of American States, and the EMCDDA and these partnerships have helped in promoting a better understanding of the phenomenon. These partnerships have also been critical in attaining the August 2000 vision of being able to prioritize the most harmful, persistent, and prevalent of these substances for international action. For example, the first UNODC, MPS Threat Assessment Report, which was released this year highlighted the role of synthetic cannabinoids and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in fatalities and emergency room admissions and Mr. Forte rightly mentioned those categories in his statement. The report also drew attention to the increasing use of benzodiazepines in drugged driving and these are substances which have been covered by the World Health Organization and they are recommendations.

So what do we know today in addition to the red flags from the last UNODC MPS threat assessments? At least 74 synthetic opioids have been reported to UNODC by 2019 representing a 131% increase in just three years. Sedative hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines are following the same trend as opioids and have been implicated in fatalities and drugged driving. At UNODC we do not only identify the problems; we try to offer tools to help you generate better data to aid in evidence based responses and you’ve noticed guidelines (at least two) on the slide which are helping countries to be able to report more on the fentanyl analogs and also on the benzodiazepines.

Mr. Chair, in August 2016 member states dared to be ambitious in aiming toward the ability to identify the most harmful, prevalent, and persistent substances for international action. Strong interagency partnerships, financial, and political support from member states and UNODCs leadership in providing innovative approaches in such challenging times have all contributed to make this happen.

Where are we today? 48 of the most harmful new psychoactive substances have been controlled by the CND since 2015 under the 1971 Conventions. The current recommendations from WHO will take out another 12 harmful substances, most of which have no established medical or scientific use. Should these recommendations be accepted by the CND, the international response to the problem of MPS will see 60 substances scheduled over the period of 2015 – 2020. It is important to note in terms of implementation. Now this will represent 20% of all substances under international control since the 1961 Convention came in to force. Mr. Chair, at this point I will comment on the recommendations presented by Mr. Dijonker under the 1988 Convention and then come back to address the overall challenges we face moving forward.

The 2009 Plan of Action noted that improving understanding of the synthetic drug problem is a necessary first step to addressing the issue. The UNODC Global Smart Program, which was established in 2009 with operations in key regions such as Southeast Asia in the Pacific, Latin America in the Caribbean, and with a strong partnership with EMCCDA has worked to achieve the necessary understanding of the global synthetic drug problem. If you look at the chart on the slide it compares seizures at a time of the 2009 political declaration for amphetamine and methamphetamine to what we have almost ten years after the political declaration. Just looking at methamphetamine, seizures globally have increased over seven-fold. It is more readily available, it is cheaper, it is purer, and it is more potent. This is certainly not because of the lack of effort from member states, it is because like Mr. Dijonker mentioned precursor control is a complicated issue. One which is plagued by remarkable innovation from organized crime to circumvent legislation. If you look at the slide – and I hope you are as color active as I am – you have got amphetamine and methamphetamine at the bottom and right above it you see substances which were under international control before 2010 so the precursors are amphetamine and methamphetamine. Between 2010 – to date, the INCBS worked fervently to place precursors of those precursors under control. So the green substances highlights the pre precursors. The game keeps changing. We have now moved to the upper level where we are having to deal with a precursor of a pre precursor, MAPA.

Excellences, Ladies, and Gentlemen it is obvious that progress has been made with the control of a number of substances over the past decade but the biggest challenge will be the implementation on the ground. The schedules of the conventions have experienced a 25% increase in just over five years. In surveys we have conducted in countries indicates that some countries are not yet able to identify some of these recently controlled substances and this is a first step to any successful implementation.

As our colleagues from WHO indicated, we continue to see the natural quality data to aid in evaluations and to lead us to evidence based policies. In this context, I would like to encourage states to continue to use the UNODC Early Warning Advisory, which is today providing a lot of evidence based for some other recommendations which have been presented to you today. I thank you, Mr. Chair.

DOUG MCVAY: That again was Justice Tettey, PhD. He is head of the laboratory and scientific section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. He was giving a report to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a lot of it having to do with new psychoactive substances. Now we have been talking a lot about those in the last few weeks and it is really important. There are hundreds of these things out there on the market – new drugs that are making their way in to the drug supply in nations all over the world. In the United States we have heard of things like fentanyl and carfentanyl, we have heard of Spice and K2 synthetic cannabinoids; but what people don’t realize is that there are dozens of synthetic opioids hitting the market as well as the synthetic cannabinoids. There are dozens of these things out there on the market including new synthetic stimulants, new traditional hallucinogens and psychedelics and all of this is being caused because of our prohibition. If we had been smart 30 years ago and just legalized and regulated plant drugs like marijuana, opium poppies, and the coca plant we probably wouldn’t be looking at such a situation today. It’s not too late, we can still do a better job.

You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host Doug McVay. Now while we still have time, people will recall that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its last session was briefed by the World Health Organization on the report by the 41st Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. That was the WHO body that recommended that marijuana and marijuana products should be rescheduled and taken off of the schedule that calls for a complete ban, which would have allowed a lot more leeway among the various member states of the U.N. It would have given people a lot more discretion in terms of how they deal with marijuana. They have yet to vote on those recommendations. It was a thrill to know that the WHO Expert Committee had made that recommendation but the reality is the Commission on Narcotic Drugs has to vote and approve that recommendation before it can go in to effect. Technically speaking, it’s a majority vote so it would be possible for there to be a split among the delegates and for reason and rationality to win out and the majority to call for marijuana to be rescheduled. That would be great. Unfortunately, this is a diplomatic process and these are all diplomats. They do not do confrontation and they prefer to handle everything with consensus. They want a broad agreement. So while it is possible that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs could have a division and have people voting yes or no, it is also possible that they will do the diplomatic thing and try to reach consensus. So long as loud voices are saying no, no, no then it is likely nothing is going to change. Let’s hear from some of those voices from the Delegation of China and see what we have to deal with and what we have to counter.

MALE VOICE: Thank you Mr. Chairman. With regard to the items under 9 and the sub items I would like to make a comprehensive statement. Since this year member states have provided comments on two rounds on WHO ECCD six recommendations related to the rescheduling of substances such as cannabis. Cannabis is the most abused and most widely available category of drugs in the world. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. Both of them strictly under the UN International Drug Control Treaties and Chinese laws and are widely recognized as the gateway drugs. Cannabis may have some potential therapeutic value and some effects against pain, spasm, vomiting, and epilepsy. However, evaluation by our experts show that the evidence is not conclusive enough and the effects are not irreplaceable. Generally speaking globally cannabis is not the first line drug in clinical treatments and there is no sufficient evidence rescheduling cannabis and THC under International Drug Control Conventions will undoubtedly send the wrong signals to the international community that cannabis use by the public is not harmful enough for it to be strictly controlled. This will mislead the public in particularly youth.

In recent years with the announced legalization of recreational and medical cannabis in some countries and regions, China has witnessed an increase of cases involving smuggled cannabis from foreign countries in particular from North America. In 2018, China cracked 125 cases of cannabis and some suspects ordered online drugs outside of China and some of them even learned how to grow cannabis on foreign websites and obtained cannabis seeds through illegal channels before growing and selling cannabis in China. By the end of 2018, China had 24,000 people abusing cannabis – a yearly increase of 25.1%.

We would like to express our concern in this regard and caution against rescheduling of cannabis legalization by certain countries and regions in breach of the Drug Control Treaties. We have also noted that the INCB and the Secretariat are faced with the financial challenges. The shortfalls in the regular budgets has hampered the ordinary functioning of the INCB Secretariat. The sufficient and adequate funding is very important for INCB to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a fair and impartial functioning. From this particular angle in consider the specific features of INCB, voluntary contribution should only serve as a supplement to the regular budget. The acceptance of the contribution should be transparent and should be in line with the mandates and functioning of the INCB. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the delegate from China at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs speaking about the possible rescheduling of marijuana. As you have noted, they are against. Russia, Nigeria, China, and a number of other nations that are simply going to follow along in lockstep with them. It would be great if the CND would reschedule, and they should. They must. The fact is that they may not do it this time. We have got to keep up the pressure. We can’t relax, we can’t celebrate a victory because we ain’t won one yet.

MALE VOICE: Marijuana for me is like the ewe momma. You understand? It’s the soy sauce, it’s the ranch dressing, and it’s the ketchup of life. Baby (BEEP) you put some weed on it and it’s even cooler. Right? Maybe it’s not so cool – you dip it in some weed. Alright! You hear where I am coming from? Things I don’t wanna do. I don’t like to wash dishes but I don’t mind getting high and washing dishes. You know what I am saying, where I am coming from? Right. It takes an extra hour because I have to make a playlist. Right? When I was the dishes the playlist is off the hook though. You feel me? It’s got a different song depending on how many dishes and what kind of dishes – if there are extra spoons there is more Soundgarden. Right? So I just love it. I love it! I am so proud of Washington for being one of the first states to legalize weed. That is awesome. I live in California and I can’t wait until they legalize weed because I would like to open a Bud and Breakfast. Right? Would you come see me at the Wakin Bakin? Would you visit me? Good morning! Good afternoon, really because we are not going to get up that early you understand? Matter of fact I am going to put a chocolate on your pillow that is gonna knock you out. You are gonna wake up refreshed wandering in the kitchen just in time for bluntch. Who doesn’t want to have blunch? Right? Perfect. (LAUGHTER) We will have our own proprietary strains. That is the thing about the weed – all the growers always mix and match and Dr. Dankenstein and make crazy hybrid (BEEP) all the time. My boy Mike called me up the other day, man. He was like “I did it, man – I crossed a Train wreck with a White Widow and I call it Courtney Love. (LAUGHTER). She knows.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies, we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at www.drugtruth.net. I am your host, Doug McVay, editor of www.drugwarfacts.org. The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at www.drugtruth.net

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, the Century of Lies. Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.