08/30/21 Dr. Joao Goulao Drug Czar of Portugal

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Joao Goulao Drug Czar of Portugal
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Moral High Ground Reclamation: Congressman Beto O'Rourke (Ret), Neil Woods Dir LEAP UK, Roger Goodman Wash State Rep, Katherine Neil Harris of Baker Inst., Dr. Christoph Buerki designer Swiss Heroin program, Maj. Neill Franklin Dir LEAP USA, Dr. Joao Goulao Drug Czar of Portugal & Dr. Kahlid Tinasti Global Commission on Drugs.

Audio file

BETO O'ROURKE: (54:05) The war on drugs largely has been waged against black Americans and communities of color, and it has produced the largest prison population on the face of the planet. One disproportionately comprised of black and Brown people. And now at a time that marijuana is legal in one form or another, and more than half the States of the union. Um, it is very hard for the formerly incarcerated. Those have been prosecuted in the war on drugs to be able to earn a living, uh, on the, the very issue for which they were punished. Uh, meanwhile, as has been the case, uh, for time and immemorial, the last 400 years in this country, um, white men primarily, um, have an easier job of finding the investment capital, um, the legal pathway, uh, and the means to profit off now the legal sale of cannabis in this country. And so I think Kamala understands that in addition to ending the war on drugs, you also have to look at restorative justice for those who've been unfairly prosecuted in that war on drugs.

And part of that means access to the opportunities now in legal marketplace for, for cannabis. Isn't it just for those who bore the brunt of this to have an opportunity to actually make a living going forward, if that's what they should choose to pursue. So we've talked about the, the, the history of the prohibition of cannabis, which really begins in El Paso, Texas, where I'm talking to you from right now more than a hundred years ago, and cannabis was associated with Mexican nationals, Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants, and in an effort to keep them down, um, legally, politically, economically, um, the, the outlaw of cannabis and the ability to prosecute, um, these new immigrants in some cases, um, became part of the policy here in the city of El Paso.

It was picked up throughout the mountain West. It then extended to trying to further control black Americans and communities like new Orleans, New York, city and marijuana became very much associated with communities of color through the eyes of the law. And so you get to modern policing, which some have compared to the new Jim Crow and its connection to the war on drugs and keeping communities of color down by law. And you begin to understand, just begin to understand, um, how law enforcement has been used as a tool of institutional racism and oppression and suppression of opportunity in black communities and in communities of color. And so to your point on, on George Floyd, um, you know, that white officer kneeling on George Floyd's throat and he was watching us, he knew he was being filmed by that cell phone camera, and he's looking right into it, um, without, uh, any care whatsoever, because he knows he can do this. He he's saying to us in his gaze, he says, I can do this because I'm white and this man is black.

There's nothing more for you to know. Uh, and I think that is, that is, um, that, that is the issue with which we are contending right now and, and, you know, white gratitude to everyone who has taken to the streets and marched in the tradition of John Lewis, uh, and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King jr. And so many of our civil rights heroes who understood that in addition to the ballot box and voting and registering and the traditional channels of power, um, that there's something more that needs to be done on critical issues and a critical moments like these and it necessitates us taking to the streets.

So we've got to look at other countries' experiences if you're urging us to do whether it's the Netherlands or Portugal, or really any other place on the planet or other States that are pioneering innovative public health responses to drug use and drug abuse and drug overdose deaths.

So, um, Dean you're you're, you're, you're really, again, um, pushing us to think beyond what's comfortable or convenient and to do instead, what is right for this country. And I hope that's what we're able to do. There's no benefit to, to the drug war. I mean, it, it, it benefits of bloated police budgets, it benefits the police industrial complex, the, you know, the, the consultants who teach you how to do a no knock warrant, break down a door and, you know, dress and in tactical military gear to, um, take on, you know, we think about Brianna Taylor who was killed, uh, through one of these no knock warrants. and to date Dean, uh, no one's been arrested. Um, no one's been prosecuted. No one's been convicted. Uh, no one's even been charged for her death and she did literally nothing wrong. Um, and, and is, is one of most recent, but only the most recent examples of the mortal consequences of this war on drugs. So it's not good for human life. It's not good for our democracy. Uh, it's not good for our fellow Americans. Um, and, and so you look, you, you follow the money and find out who is profiting from this. And I think you find your answers.

NEIL WOODS: ((59:55) This is one of the biggest industries in the world and it's, and it's completely unregulated. It's half a trillion worldwide in the UK. It's 10 billion pounds a year. Um, but that does this. It's not just a huge value in the market, which causes the corruption. There's another aspect, which again, we observe every level and you're right to say that it's the same internationally, but the mechanism that causes corruption, that I'm about to describe to you works every single level, it works at sort of regional in a nation. It works at national level and international level. You see where we do take out the competition and we catch a gang, a cartel, et cetera. It does mean that another gang has an increase in the market share. Now I think it's economics. 101 that an unregulated market in any unregulated market monopolies appear, you know, it's a basic economic truth, but with the illicit drugs market, the mechanism of monopolies forming is actually accelerated by the actions of police.

So where you have, why you create a gap in the market and you get rid of a gang, it's actually usually the most successful gang. It's the gang that's already dominant, which takes advantage of that and expands into that space. This is why they used to be 20 cartels in Mexico. Now there are only three, but you see those three cartels now have a much bigger share of the market, which means they are individually richer, which means they can use much more of their disposable income to corrupt the system. So the mechanism of policing is actually what leads to increased corruption. Now, what gang with enough money would not corrupt the system to protect themselves. It's the obvious, strategic thing to do.

So it is accepted by police leaders, not just in the UK, because I have spoken with police leaders all over the place including the USA. It is accepted that this corruption is endemic and impossible to defend against because what successful organized crime group would not employ people to join the police. Why would they not? And I don't want my , our criminal justice system corrupted by gangsters, but the only way we can ever stop this is by taking the markets off them, taking the power away from them, by regulating the markets. And, you know, we, it might be a stretch of the imagination for most people in a stable democracy like the UK or the USA or, or Norway. It might be a stretch of people's imagination to see themselves it's going in the same direction as Mexico, you know, and, you know, because Mexico is so extreme or Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, West Africa is now a narco state, or were all the other democracy democracies that are being eroded by, by drugs money.

But, you know, we're only going in that direction. We are all going in that direction. We're at the thin end of the same wedge. And don't underestimate the extent of the corruption in your police and criminal justice system, because the longer and harder we fight this war, more likely that corruption is going to increase. the issue of racial justice is inseparable from drug policy because drug drug policy is what, um, maintains the structural, um, racism within, within, within our society. But you have to bear in mind that the USA has a, slightly different view of this. I mean, I, I, in for drug Wars, I researched the way that, um, USA drug policy, uh, destroyed the UK drug policy because you know, this international drug policy, it's a USA invention. It's essentially, you know, it's a, state's moral imperialism because in the UK, we didn't really have a problem with drugs until we were forced through diplomatic international pressure to, to follow the USA way, doing things cocaine wasn't seen as anything other than a tonic for housewives, until until black people were seen to be using it, or it was a way of persecuting black people.

It was, it was an extension of the Jim Crow law. That's what the ban on cocaine. I mean, we call it cannabis in Europe and in America you call it marijuana because it was a way of encouraging it to be seen as a Mexican problem or way of persecuting Mexicans during the great depression, when Mexicans were seen to be stealing white jobs. It was a way of persecuting. It's always been about racism.

The UK is a fun, fascinating example of world drug policy shifts, because it's, it says police voices, which are leading the debate, the police are way ahead of politicians. And in fact, um, where some police leaders have been bringing in heroin assisted treatment, actually paying for free prescriptions of heroin for problematic users, the home office, the government has said, well, we expect our police to uphold the law. Um, but the police are going ahead and doing their own reforms.

It's just pragmatic policing. It's following evidence for what is helpful to somebody's health and society. And, you know, there is good evidence, these diversion schemes from where they happen in other parts of the country, they have actually reduced crime. So you've got to go with the evidence and I applaud the police, some of my colleagues in the UK for bravely bringing in these policies in spite of politics and not because of it. And of course I applaud the Canadian Chiefs, but you know, we've got police voices speaking out on reforms, across Europe as part of LEAP Europe, Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

An evidence based drug policy is not too much too much to ask and where, where we go for evidence rather than moral posturing, that's where we tend to get movement forwards because the evidence is so overwhelming that reforms work, whichever incremental reforms we're talking about, whether it's harm reduction, um, specifically opioid substitution, treatment H.A.T.s, you know, heroin, prescribing decriminalization, and most importantly regulation. You know, there is evidence that, that, that these, these changes in policies work, but, but there's, there's a, there's an unholy Alliance between politicians and media journalism and what each has being supporting the other in this sort of weaponizing of the issue for a very long time.

But I think what politicians need to realize is the public are now seeing through this, despite this weight of propaganda, that's come from politicians and journalists alike, that, that there is a truth here coming through that they need to get behind or be judged very harshly by history because it's not going to be too much in the near future. When we look back on this period of time and think how, how could we as a society have allowed that policy to continue? You know, they need to feel the weight of the judgment of history because now is the turning point. So which, which of them will get behind these reforms, which of them, will take that moral high ground that the lives of problematic drug users are as valuable as everybody else's now who will take that moral ground that no citizen gets left behind.

But I would love in the United States is for Americans to look beyond the, beyond their borders, because there is innovation and drug policy going on that the USA uniquely is not really taking any notice of, for example. So, you know, I am astounded sometimes by how resistant Americans can be to just basic harm reduction principles, which save lives around the world. It's, it's bizarre, you know, trust me. The USA is really weird with this, like really weird, even things like providing clean injecting equipment, you know, just, just basic stuff, that kind of stuff that stops the spread of blood borne viruses and keeps people alive. You know, why, why would you not support it?

ROGER GOODMAN: (1:08:21) I can't imagine anything less moral, less ethical than a system, A structure that has perpetuated the relegation of unpopular and vulnerable groups in our society to second class citizenship, whether it was the Chinese in the late 18 hundreds or the Mexicans and the, what we call Negroes in the early 20th century and poor whites or what we might call white trash in the late 20 20th century. Um, this, uh, there's nothing moral about it. That's been profiteering off of suffering. It's been, uh, environmental damage in developing countries, a destabilization of governments, compromising of medical care, clogging of the courts, uh, violating civil rights. Uh, I just can't imagine anything right about this policy, given the record, the history, the evidence of how devastating it has been in every aspect of our public and private lives.

DEAN BECKER (Audio) : Do you currently think there is anything that is moral about this drug war?

KATHERINE NEILL HARRIS: (1:09:55) No, there's not. Um, I think at this point, you know, it was, it's been racially motivated from the beginning, and I think that now we're in a situation where, you know, there's the, the racial component of it is still there. And then there's also the fact that, you know, a lot of people that are, you know, in elected office, I mean, for one thing, there's just sort of, they are not interested in hearing information that doesn't comport with their worldview or their understanding. And I also think that for a lot of them, it's politically expedient to sort of continue this, the idea of fear and connecting drug use and crime to those fears is an old, old tactic. And we still see it continuing today. And you see some of it in president Trump's rhetoric about cartel, violent cartels from Mexico and drug trafficking.

And so, you know, I think for some people that are in elected office, you know, it doesn't really matter if you show them evidence that, you know, needle exchange programs, you know, cut down on the spread of HIV, or if you showed them that drug arrests, you know, disproportionately affect black communities. That's not that those aren't really things that they care about. They care about getting reelected. And so, you know, they don't, they still don't want to look soft on crime or soft on drugs. And again, it's, it's politically advantageous for them to kind of have the, to be able to play on the fear of some of their constituents. And I just, I think that's just an unfortunate reality of the situation.

DR. CHRISTOPH BUERKI: (1:11:20) I appeal to you. You don't need to find a big, nobody Has the big solution to the problem of drug addiction. I mean, it's horrible if somebody, you know, well, um, is addicted to a drug, there is no cheap solutions, but there is as a society ways we can try, we need to try it. Maybe, maybe you won't succeed. Um, I don't know, what's the tailor tailored solution or way to go for you and your culture. Try it. We did try it. Switzerland is a conservative country, um, however, quite rich country. Uh, and we tried something and it worked, it wasn't a solution for every public health public order addiction problem in, in, in our country. But it was a very important, uh, step and the same could go for you for your country. Try it in a small project prove that it's feasible, that it's, uh, efficient to do that it works. And then, then, then learn from it and develop it.

NEILL FRANKLIN: (1:12:30) So hopefully we're getting to a place where people are starting to realize just what you said, that that's not just unique to Houston. It's not just unique to Baltimore. It's not just unique to Chicago. You can go to any major city and not just major cities. You can go to rural counties in the South to the same thing where they're stealing money from people through, uh, asset forfeiture, uh, programs, you know, sitting on highways or Sheriff's departments sitting on highways, stopping cars with out of state tags and taking any cash that they may have by trickery literally by trickery. You know, so it's not unique to our big cities. It's our small towns and it's our, it's our rural counties as well. And, you know, I hate it when I hear my peers say, well, it's just a few bad apples Dean. It's not just a few bad apples.

Don't broad brush the entire policing world because of these few bad apples. I'm going to tell you something, it's not a few bad apples. The barrel, the actual Apple barrel is rotten. So when these young kids come through these police academies with the mindset that they're going to do good by people that they want to really help people after a year or two in that uniform on the street, they're just like the rest of the apples that are in that barrel because the barrel is rotten. Anytime you have these police departments and these so-called good officers sit by and watch this corruption and watch the crime is being committed by those wearing a uniforms and sit by idly as with George Floyd, you know, where the other three officers know that mr. Floyd was in distress with Chauvin's knee on his neck. When you have that, when you fail to intervene or fail to hold your peers accountable for the dirt that they do, you're rotten. Also,

DR. JOAO GOULAO: (1:15:05) Let me tell a very important argument from the right wing, from the conservatives. United nations treaties, the United nations will punish you. Will blind you. In fact, we had that discussion in 2000 at the parliament, it was approved. It passed the bill passed and came into force in the 1st of July of 2001. And what I can tell you nowadays, 20 years after is that there is a complete consensus, complete political consensus nowadays, even those parties who voted against the bill at that time are now in favor of our policies, because we have the evidence of the results. Nowadays, you are facing an epidemic on opiates, mostly on fentanyl and similar things that is, uh, also crosscutting your society. And this crisis, I believe can be, uh, an opportunity. It's almost, uh, now we talk about, uh, uh, the, the challenges and the opportunities that the pandemic, uh, prizes is posing to all the world.

Uh, but also this one is, is also is a challenge, but also an opportunity to launch the discussion in the, in the society, in the community, and to have movement of people moving into that direction.

I believe in the principle of legalizing of everything, the state involved in the production and the distribution, putting rules, uh, but for all substances, why why to have a special framework from cannabis? It is far from being a light, right? As people tend to present it, right? Yeah. It's strains that you can find in the market are really dangerous in terms of mental health. So if the principle is to avoid contamination, to avoid the black market, to avoid criminality related to drugs, we must think about legalizing all the substances and creating rules. So it's a new paradigm. Instead of the previous units paradigm, we will have the regulatory paradigm and I believe it can be a good solution.

What I can, I can reply to this is in between. And meanwhile, give the step of decriminalizing improvement. They criminalize drug use and possession for personal use, right? Despite all those discussions, all the discussion that is going, uh, worldwide, uh, about legalization, about regulation of the market, meanwhile, decriminalize, and you have clear improvements immediately. There's no, no reason the drug war was launched as you said with a big influence of the United States and United Nations.

DEAN BECKER: And based in racial bigotry to start with.

DR. JOAO GOULAO: But yes, it's a, it's a tool for domination for racial domination plus domination. It's, uh, uh, and that's, that is what is behind that. So I believe that your society is going through a period where, uh, uh, open discussion about those issues can lead to some progress in, in your model and I hope that you can contribute for that. I'm sure you can.

DR. KHALID TINASTI: (1:19:30) I mean, it is very difficult to object to the way you have looked into the issues and saying, what are the impacts of the way we look into or the way we try to control drugs, the way we control to make them disappear from society? I mean, we all agree of course, that there is a demand and there is a demand for psychosis, psychoactive substances, all over the world, the legal ones and the illegal ones. I mean, the whole system of saying what is legal and illegal is based on the potential of addictiveness of a, of a substance. Why do we leave alcohol and tobacco outside of that and not have the same levels of control? So it is for sure to say that people look for psychoactive substances and there is a demand. So the supply will always follow because it's also a sustained demand. And the fact of trying to hide that reality and trying to break that reality and, and trying to live in a parallel world does create many, many issues. First of all, I mean, everyone, even the United nations recognized that recognizes this since 2008. And as you said, it, one of the, what we call the unintended consequences of the regime of control, which are, I mean, they've been recognized since 2008 and they still consider it unintended. So those were the first of them is, is the black market itself and the illegal market. And the fact that the policy choice was to leave it in the hands of criminals and not have authorities or regulators taken that market and regulated it's regulated, it's access limited it, depending on the substance, et cetera, et cetera. So all the impacts you speak about what is going on in Latin America, what is going on in terms of funding of different groups, of different criminal groups. Those also sometimes engaged in Terror, although the evidence there is less clear, it's also more about opportunistic relationships in certain areas of the world, et cetera.

So that is a clear vision of the real impacts actually in the big, big impacts of what is going on in the world. So thank you. And you touched up on something that is so important, which is about the quality of what people buy or even knowing what they buy, right. If they're buying the right substance or not, but that is for us, this is the difficulty with this ideological difficulty against a harm reduction, because I mean, drug testing, et cetera, do exist. And those need to be allowed to be implemented at all levels, that city level at state level, at the federal level. Now there is also the issues of, um, I mean, a city like Amsterdam, or even here in Geneva, for example, where people who inject drugs and are dependent on drugs that go to services like safe injection facilities that go into, you know, different services, those people, they, if there is a problem, they can be caught very quickly and they could report what substance, what they bought it.

And so the analysis goes very quickly and the services of the city, even in Amsterdam, they even put like, uh, ads in the street saying something is going on in the black market, do not buy this substance. And even here in Switzerland, for example, in Geneva and the communities, because they see what is going on in the safe injection room when they see people arriving, because, but this is because people are not afraid to come forward because the cops are not going to be called because they're considered patients because they're given the services of harm reduction services, which allow people then to be sent to the doctors. If they have problems to see also the fact that, or to go into treatment, you know, people send them, so they do testing also for infectious diseases, et cetera, to send them afterwards to the hospital, to have a regular treatment regimen.

I mean, not for drugs, but if there's any other issue or if they want to enter into a cycle of treatment, because here we also have, the fact of everything is offered to people have to choose. They could choose a substitution treatment as maintenance for forever. If they can not get out of it, they could use it for a certain period. They can go to rehabilitation and abstinence. I mean, it really is about a therapeutic contract between the doctor and the patient. So it is not about imposing to people what they have to do, it's to help them choose how they get out of their difficult situation. And here again, we're talking only about people would have a dependence that go to the services, et cetera. We're not talking about the vast majority, which is recreational, which has no issues. And we don't see, I mean, even the implementation of drug laws is so arbitrary people that can afford to do it behind high walls that no one sees they do.

And they don't, they're not impacted to get arrested, et cetera. They get people to deliver to their homes, et cetera, whatever they need. So it is also that nature of arbitrary that makes it very difficult. And it goes also again to all the populations, but I mean, people are starting to get a grasp of deaths and we are getting out of marijuana because, um, I don't know if this is positive or negative, but I saw the, um, uh, author of the Wire, you know, the TV show. And he was speaking about Colorado in their experiment of the marijuana legalization. He was saying that he was worried because in an interview and he was saying, he was worried to some extent, because we are getting out to people that have the political voice, the college white college students, we're getting them out of this, of the prohibition, if we legalize cannabis because of marijuana, because that's their substance and what is going to be the issue with other people that use other drugs and do not have that same voice that do not have that same social status and class.

And that do not have that same presence in the public debate. So it is so drugs are used a lot as a pawn for a lot of things as well, but those are also issues that are related to the socioeconomic, to the ethnic et cetera issues. And that is not only in the United States, that is the case in the United Kingdom. That is the case in France. That is the case in the Russian Federation, where more people that are arrested do not have Slavic names. They have other names. This is the case and everywhere, you know, I mean, you can look at it in every perspective and countries of the South countries of the North, the rich countries, et cetera, when you have something that is, that has been so stigmatized and built being built. That's why I said the convention speak about addiction as evil. The impacts of the prohibition on the war, on drugs and being very repressive can not be concealed.

I mean, as we said, 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 over those as 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. 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 drive the demand by being so harsh, et cetera. I mean, it is very much more difficult to speak about sophisticated nuanced 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 down. We evaluate and we find the best models. 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 the physical pain because of emotional pain, I mean, it's the diversity of, for experimentation for, I mean, the diversity of reasons, everything is changing. There is no more consensus on prohibition around the world. We have a world today where in Colorado people can buy it legally. And we have in the same time, people that are being killed extra judicially in different countries in South and Southeast Asia, because of exactly the same thing that is legal in the United States. We have countries with criminal light with very heavy criminalization and with mandatory death penalty for very low thresholds of possession. And we have on the other hand countries that have de facto decriminalization, et cetera. So we are in a situation that is so problematic and gives actually, because there is no more consensus and there is no more, uh, similar approaches. And that always is cracks in the system for criminal organizations to go through those cracks. So the global consensus that we have built around prohibition no longer is tenable because it did not bring any results and brought a lot of harm.