Pt 2: Dr. Khalid Tinasti, Exec Dir of Global Commission on Drugs participates in video production of Seeking The Moral High Ground.
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Dr. Khalid Tinasti
Global Commission on Drugs
Sat, 11/07/2020 - 07:18
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (30:05)
There is more violence today than anything. The market is bigger than anything. There is more production. I mean, even when we know that even when there is a disruption, I mean, the records of production of opium, we're having cannabis that can not be disrupted because it's, it's basically produced in every country. I mean, even, I mean, 150 countries report production, but I mean, it's everywhere. And now we have new psychoactive substances. I mean, you are going through the fentanyl and the synthetics crisis. I mean, in other countries, there is overdoses related to synthetic cannabinoids because people, I mean, you know, people will be creative and will make things. So, I mean, again, just the walk, maybe the half mile there.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (30:49)
And just to say, it is much more easy and convenient to say, we're going to fight crime and we're going to go after these people. And we, aren't going to dry up the demand by being so harsh, et cetera. I mean, it is very much more difficult to speak about sophisticated neons approaches that are based on science that need to be evaluated little by little, especially when you have such a, um, how has a, um, difficult political, um, separation and difficult, you know, getting people together. But we have to get people together, back again around the table. And to some extent really say that this is a such a difficult issue. It's not white or black. It's not this or that. It, I mean, it has to be worked a lot and everyone will have to put in a bit of their own until we get there.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (31:37)
And we evaluate, and we find the best models, the reality, as well as that California can not have the same policies to some extent. I mean, even, you know, if we were in a perfect regulated markets where people have their rights protected by the law and their choices also respected by the law, et cetera, the models will be different because the substances that are used here are not the same use there because you know, the environments are not the same, et cetera. If you're in a small state, if you're in a bigger state, et cetera. So to some extent to say that, I mean, for me, it will be very, always very difficult to speak about, um, policy makers, not wanting the best for their country and for their people. Now there is a need, of course. I mean, change comes really through. I mean, it's always been coming through mostly, also through the ground, through the experiences and the experiments and what is going on.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (32:21)
I mean, you have a discussion in the United States that is huge about criminal justice reform currently and who goes to prisons, et cetera. I mean, that is also one of the biggest, biggest before the crisis, the overdoses crisis that have started of course, since a few years now, um, that is also a huge crisis that has been aggravated in the eighties and then the nineties with different policies, et cetera. So it is also about finding the entry doors. But again, there is just to finish up on this, even the United States and the United nations, when we go back again to this unintended consequences story that they came up with in 19, in 2008, because that was the a hundred years of drug control going from the 1909 Shanghai commission on opium. So they came up with this report. We can about unintended consequences as well of the current regime.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (33:08)
And one of them is what they call policy displacement. And the fact that now in every country in the world, budgetary displacements goes into more money, goes into law enforcement and does not go to hell, does not go to education, et cetera, other things that we need to lower the issues related to drugs. So, and it's always very hard in every, every country to take the money out of the pocket of law enforcement, we injustice or police, they always win the budgetary battle. And the health minister is always the one that loses that usually. And this is the case almost everywhere, because this is unfortunately the world we live in and it's going more and more security oriented to some extent, I mean, yeah, just to say it, to finalize on that. Yeah. All these issues are there, but they need to reach the public. And I think that what you're doing with your show as well is giving up the evidence and the information to people on the ground to understand much more how complex the issues are, but that there are solutions as well. That need to be pragmatic and realistic.
Dean Becker (34:07)
Thank you for that. Uh, uh, I, um, uh, you were talking about the, the police forces and, um, I don't know what I think it was about 1990, um, was the invasion of Panama, uh, that, uh, Noriega was the biggest drug dealer in the world. And the United States went down there and, and in the 24 hours, I guess, kicked his butt. And finally he came out of hiding and surrendered. Uh, but that's, that's kinda the extreme example, but here in the United States, every police force now has a SWAT team, has a modus operandi kick in the door, uh, shoot the dog, threatened the children, et cetera. And I guess to me, the morals of that process, that, that, that function are, are, are wrong. They're evil because we're always going to have drug users. There. There is no denying that we have always, since the beginning of time, people have used drugs, psychedelic drug bushes, who cares.
Dean Becker (35:09)
They have always tried to change their, uh, they drink reindeer P up in, in the, uh, um, uh, Alaska. And I guess what I'm saying is it's time to pull the plug on this it's time to find that solution we have every year, the U S invest 50 to $60 billion trying to stop the flow of drugs. But what most people do not recognize is that every year that terrorists the cartels, the gangs, the street corner vendors make 400 to $600 billion a year. They use that money to finance human trafficking and other criminal operations. And in essence, we're shooting ourselves in the foot with a machine gun 24 seven, your response Kaleo,
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (35:53)
No, I mean, it is. In fact, as I said, the fact of having chosen prohibition as a model was giving up control to some extent. I mean, we had the global commission have our 2014 report called take control and with the pathways to take the control. And we had that discussion of saying the title was retake control, but some, one of our commissioners stood up and said, no one has ever had the control. And it was in the hands of criminals since day one. I mean, we took it out of the hands of the traditional ceremonial use, which was more, um, which was less potent to some extent in India or in Nepal, et cetera, in different countries where there, I mean, and now we're having something that is very much more pot and powerful, et cetera. So, I mean, prohibition has also changed that the nature of the illegal market, because I mean, when you want to be, when you're, when you're, when you're a criminal, you also want to have stronger substances so that you can go and cut them much easier and have smaller quantities to pass, et cetera, et cetera.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (36:46)
So you go into more pot and issues, and that's why fentanyl is so successful as well, because it can hide it easily and you can sell it. You can add it with smaller quantities and you can sell it for the same price as heroin, et cetera. So of course, I know this is just like the perverse effects that come with it. And you find yourself with like, what, what was in the sixties is very different from what is in 2020. So it is a different world. I mean, the issue, it is very difficult not to say yes, of course this is the biggest market for the organized crime. I mean, uh, needing a kidney that's once in a lifetime, you know, for like, uh, for, for, for trafficking of Oregon's needing a weapon that is few times once, et cetera, et cetera, for traffic arms, but drugs, the demand is there.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (37:28)
And the demand can not be concealed. That is not a reality. I mean, that's why we look for societies that are without problematic use, where people use responsibly, where they don't cause problems to themselves or to others. So, and that is the majority of the users. Anyways, we're talking here about, uh, about 88 to 89% of people who use drugs around the world that are touched by the system, because also we know people who use drugs only they're arrested or go to the ER room or et cetera, et cetera, all the people that consume and not, not touched by the system, we don't know about them. So we have limited data. I mean, and it's very difficult to conceal that. Now also the fact how we respond to organized crime, organized crime works. It does not work in silos. They look for profits and for revenue, and so they can move very easily and they can have, they have very flexible structures.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (38:16)
We do have huge machines and state response. And in the authorities response, and you have the anti-corruption unit there, the antidromic unit there, you have, you know, each one is separated. Each one has its procedures, et cetera. And so there are so many cracks in the system to go through it, even under prohibition. So, I mean, there are ways to do better. Our last report of the global commission that was lounged in early may, 2020 does address this issue is I don't know how to address the under a prohibition model, how to do better, basically to raise the money, to infiltrate the organizations, how to have a better response is working, coming together, but also under regulated market. Because when you regulate the market, there are also opportunities of infiltration, et cetera. And if you leave people that were there, those that were controlled by organized crime, as the small hands, the dealers in the street that don't even make according to evidence, do not make the minimum wages, uh, or you know, the women in central America that are the couriers, and they don't even know the quantities they're carrying, or what did they, I mean, usually they don't even know what kind of penalties they would face by arriving into the other country and across and et cetera.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (39:26)
And of course, people who use and consume that is those are people that, I mean, should not be left behind. They need to be taken into account in the new market and also be taken with the market out of the hands of criminals, because those are people that are given also as soldiers to that market, because they have no other economic alternative to some extent. So we also include the nonviolent people there, but I mean, finally to say on the methods of intervention, I mean, the United States is a signatory of the universal declaration of human rights. And I mean, the way of intervening, it remains a very sovereign issue. So it's very difficult for an international person to speak about police intervention and law enforcement intervention into a, you know, a while and anti-drug campaigns. But of course, I mean, there are some minimums about people's dignity. I mean, people are innocent until proven guilty, even when there is an intervention of beliefs, et cetera, it is a judge that does, uh, give a judgment and not law enforcement. And I mean, people's rights. People do not lose their rights and their fundamental rights because they, they use a banned substance.
Dean Becker: (40:38)
I, um, I want to go back to, I have a shirt. I like to wear it from time to time. It says, nice people use drugs. And I know that one and many people, I, I can't give you a, uh, even a good approximation, but I would think it's in the high 90% of all drug use, maybe 90.9 is people enjoying themselves, uh, seeking a bit of euphoria. It is the, the result, many times of people not knowing what in the heck they're purchasing, how much to use that creates the problems of, uh, overdose and death. And, and it's, uh, it is, it is the policy that in the United States, we call these drugs controlled substances. And there's never been a bigger oxymoron on the planet. These drugs have no control
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (41:34)
Whatsoever. And I guess what I'm saying here is that the hype, the hysteria, the quote need for this drug war is so overblown from my perspective perspective, excuse me, it is totally unnecessary. It has no reason to exist. It is a quasi religion. That's 50 or a hundred years old. And, and I want your response. No, I mean, I mean, we are totally in agreement. I mean, people use drugs for a variety of reasons, you know, I mean, around the world and in the United States, I mean, it could be for seeking pleasure. It could be because of self-medication because of physical pain because of emotional pain. I mean, it's the diversity of, for experimentation for, I mean, the diversity of reasons. I mean, the very famous sentence that says that even a kid, if when you go, when you see kids, I mean, they go around the carousel in turn, turn, turn, turn, turn around until their head spins.
Dr. Khalid Tenastid Tenastisti: (42:28)
So people want to have their brain, you know, um, alter to some extent that is a human behavior. It is also an animal behavior in many animals that use many substances that they find through other plans. And so the fact of not accepting that is the big problem. And the other fact of having chosen a model of control that is based on saying addiction is evil. We need to stop it, but then promoting tobacco, alcohol coffee and all those other issues that are very commercially important. And at the same time, allowing, I mean, destroying the whole mild, um, traditional production and allowing pharmaceutical companies to go into, you know, synthesizing or producing whatever they want as substances and selling them in the market. You know, so at this, that, that, that difficulty between what people want to do and what is being pushed commercially, that also makes it very difficult, you know, to accept the system, plus all the impacts you've been speaking about that are huge.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (43:29)
And indeed it is, it is the policies that are also in part responsible for people's deaths. I mean, people it's to some extent do by the substances and that's their choice. And as a society, we have to reach that point where we accept that not everyone is going to be uniform. That is the reality. I mean, the United States is the country of the people coming from everywhere and living together and making the greatest country on earth. So it is the true, it is the country like that. And it will continue for a very long time. Its economy depends on that. Its culture depends on that, et cetera. It's the country where you are American before. Anything else when you are a lot of different things. So we have also to accept the fact that people will do use different substances. I mean, this is where we also need to go into these discussions as well.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (44:15)
I mean, we say that we need to bring in the cultural voices. We need to bring it to different voices, the religious voices, et cetera, but to open the base, to open discussions, this is a societal issue. This is about people, their own choices and making sure that they do not fall into these situation as you have this crime so well that people go and just buy something, but they have to do it so quickly. And they don't know what they're buying, et cetera, et cetera, because they're afraid of being caught because the dealer also is afraid of being caught, et cetera, and that they buy whatever they can and they go, and then they just don't even know how to use it really, to some extent or have someone to show them and they don't have access to clean material. And so they end up using the same material and getting infected with HIV and hepatitis, et cetera, and becoming and destroying their own lives, but also making all the society lose all its investments.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (45:02)
I mean, those are our, like every one of us in a society we're supposed to give back, we're supposed to work and everyone would love to do that and have the opportunity to work and be give back and be integrated in society, et cetera, et cetera. So we deny people also their place in society by rejecting them in that extent or not allowing them to have the services and also people that end up overdosing and not having help and not having the capacity to call for help. I mean, that is our terrible, terrible moment that no one, no one should be going through. I mean, it's this, we have to get out of this craziness. That repression is a deterrence. Now we know it's not, it's been almost 60 years that everything has been used prison eradication of crops, uh, long sentences. And as you've written about it as well, um, minimum, you know, mandatory minimums, et cetera, et cetera, at all levels.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (45:55)
I mean, state and County jails full of people consuming drugs alone, and that should never, ever, ever be that getting their lives destroyed with criminal records and not being able to reintegrate a society or their communities in the right way. Communities that have been impacted very, very heavily of course, by the war on drugs. Because when we speak about the one drug and we're addressing is in few areas as in the areas that are already poor and, and, you know, in difficult situations, it's not in the beautiful areas and with wealthy people. So all of these impacts yes. Have to be addressed of course, but the only way to get there it's really to start change somewhere and to open a discussion that gets bigger and bigger in society. And I think that that's something that happened for marijuana when people started to understand that no people are not going to be stabbing you in the street because marijuana is legal. Not no, the sun is still comes up that the United States will remain the United States. And that is something that just was done in a situation that was illegal and now it's just become illegal. So I mean the same demand is there, the same people are there. It didn't change much.
Dean Becker (46:58)
You mentioned the open discussion and over the years, the decades that I've been doing this, uh, I have contacted, you know, the offices of the drug enforcement administration, the Olin DCP, um, even though the president, a couple of times seeking a debate, seeking a discussion, similar to what we're doing now. And I have been absolutely shut down every time now. They don't even respond to my emails. They don't return my phone calls. And I guess what I'm saying here is that I claim
Dean Becker: (47:30)
The moral high ground. I think I own every square inch of it. And I would love to have that debate and they hide from me. Um, your response to that, sir.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (47:40)
Well, I mean, that is for, to some extent also, I mean, we, as a global commission have, um, less success in being in the U S discussion or in the Washington DC discussion and more particularly for the last few years. So, but the global commission for instance, was put in place to be a bridge between people on the ground and people in place. So this is something that we do country visits, for instance, where our commissioners visit a country, where there is a discussion and a debate about a reform. And they would meet with the civil society voice as they will try to organize public events, uh, to be visible. But they would also meet up with the highest level of authorities to take into, you know, to take those voices and bring them there and open up the debate. So they act as the door openers, to some extent our commissioners bring, bringing the evidence they're experienced, they're more authority, et cetera, because they have been in office.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (48:29)
They have been through that to some extent. So this is why our, uh, this is how we function at a global level of course, with our own capacity and what we can do. And we have to cover up so many discussions. I mean, from Tunisia to Malaysia, to, you know, South Africa, uh, Colombia, et cetera, et cetera, um, many, many different issues. Now, a country like the United States is much more permeable to international global level discussions. And that's where we also have some, our little sister as the regional commissions as the one in West Africa or the one that we spoke about in Latin America and other ones come in where they have a regional discussion that they try to open up a regional debate on a regional discussion. But with political champions that are from the region that do not necessarily have to have the same positions as us, but of course our basis is the human rights and the fundamental rights of people that we go from that point and where these political champions then educate themselves.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (49:25)
I mean, we had the experience in West Africa where we had the former president of Nigeria, the mr. Obasanjo who himself has educated himself about the issue of drug policy has seen evidence to him when he started the West Africa commission, working with our commissioners and mr. And the late mr. Kofi Annan, he was for him really to address the, the, the, the increase in traffic. And because it became the new routes since it's so difficult to go through the Caribbean and the central America now. So the new, yeah. And so, and so, but he ended up seeing that consumption was going up, that the health related issues were coming in, that the over-incarceration is coming in, the human rights violations are coming in. And so he became one of the most wonderful voices for change in the region, going around and seeing people in office and trying, you know, and get bringing the evidence and bring in the discussion and also bring it in recommendations that are adapted to the region that are not necessarily the same as the global commission that says we need to regulate every drug with different models, because the state to take control and has to take responsibility.
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (50:30)
This is not okay to leave it in the hands of criminals on the regional levels. It's more adaptable to the realities and it educates the people from the region, and it is a debate between the people in the region. So these are the kinds of mechanisms we're trying to put in place, of course, but as you would know, I mean, just to respond very quickly. Again, it is always about the political capital and how much you can build up in this. It's been only really 10 years. And I mean, I think that the marijuana experience is very different with what has been started with someone like Ethan Nadelmann since the nineties, and trying to get into the medical marijuana, et cetera, and proving its efficacy and, and better regulation than, than in the black market. But it's also, you know, something that is evolving very quickly and it's building up. I mean, you see now that so many States do vote for that for the legalization. And I think that the debate that what you've been doing for the last 20 years will pay off because it's also the whole public opinion that is also shifting and looking into the evidence and listen in a bit more. But of course this takes time, especially in a world now where people get so much information every minute with different channels, proven and unproven, true and fake, et cetera, et cetera, but we will eventually get there.
Dean Becker: (51:42)
I think you're right now, um, in a way, this is a facetious question, but what is the benefit of drug war?
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (51:52)
Well, I mean, no, the benefit is big. I mean, if you look at it to some extent there a wall of money, I mean the prohibition money is no, but I mean
Dean Becker: (52:00)
Our neighborhoods, what is the benefit?
Dr. Khalid Tenasti: (52:03)
Well, I mean, just to say, I mean to say this is not ironic, but in reality, I mean the prohibition of money money is, I mean, and the criminal money is there is huge laundering and ends up being for the most luxurious, the biggest, um, you know, goods in, in, in the real economy. So there is a lot of interests there. There's the laundering of the money coming from there, there is all the yards, et cetera, et cetera, that could be bought with that. So there is an interest for some legal economy and there's a lot of interest for the criminal economy, but there is no good for no one. It does not protect our kids from drugs in no way. Our kids are very exposed to drugs. I mean, in what city in the world, you can not find heroin or cocaine or cannabis in five minutes. You can find it everywhere that easily. I mean, it's, I mean, what I said, maybe it was called, but it was really to say it's true. There are some people that benefit from it, but it's again, yeah. Not those that need to be protected,
Dean Becker: (53:07)
But yeah. Nothing for me or you or our kids or our neighborhood.
, Dr. Khalid Tenasti: No