CHAIR – Good morning everyone. Today we focus on cross-cutting issues in addressing and countering the world drug problem, evolving realities, trends and existing circumstances, emerging and persistent challenges and threats including new psychoactive substances (NPS), in conformity with the 3 international Drug Control Conventions and other relevant international instruments. We will continue with the consideration of yesterday’s thematic focus immediately followed by our discussion on today’s topic.
BARBARA REMBERG, Secretariat International Narcotics Control Board – My intervention today will focus on substances not under international control and the need for practical and workable solutions. This is a new era in a sense that the sophistication and scale is unprecedented. The technical know-how, especially for illicit synthetic drug manufacture and the equipment that was previously considered to be too complex or too sophisticated, or/and too costly to implement or to employ in illicit settings, we see that now often. The high purity of end-product is another indicator of the sophistication that we see and to some extent the presence of many of NPS is also indicative. Regarding precursor chemicals, diversity is an issue by means of close relative families of substances used for the same end-product, making it easier for the traffickers to stick to the same prefered end-products. The problem is certainly international. Most importantly, many of the substances we are talking about have no known legitimate uses; either medical or industrial, hence no regular trade. Just to illustrate the complexity of the issue, the fentanyl analogues and their precursors are currently about 20 plus another 5 estimated for next year, with thousand potential other due to molecule structure. Only 2 of these precursors are under control and is also very clear that we cannot schedule them all.
The cornerstone of the international precursor control system is licit trade monitoring and thanks to the cooperation between member states (MS) the diversion of the international trade is substantially reduced, with the prefered 26 substances being now harder to obtain. But what about the rest of the substances? Also about the designer precursors that are specifically made on request by traffickers to circumvent legislation? Or those that are very close chemically relatives to non-scheduled pre-precursors and so on, being at the very early on the synthesis chain. At the request of the government of Argentina, INCB is currently also assessing a number of chemicals that will be up for scheduling or not on the upcoming CND. While I say this all for synthetic drugs, we do see similar development -not at that scale- for cocaine for example and other drugs. So it can be done?
One issue is the flexible exchange of information and the development of intelligence that has always been important, for precursor control in general, since one side is the licit trade monitoring and on the other side once diversion has happened and the substance is seized, it is then the backtracking and gathering of the intelligence that in needed. For more than 15 years we have been having the “Prism and Cohesion” initiative in which there are global focal network of practitioners that are meant to facilitate the communication and the collaboration within countries and in between countries with the view to assist the investigations. “ION” jointed the family of projects, in 2013, with a focus on NPS and the non-medical fentanyls. The INCB platforms for communication between governments are PICS (Precursors Incident Communication System) and IONICS (ION Incident Communication System), so real time information and sharing intelligence is possible. These systems are used widely by more than 100 governments in an effort to identify links between cases that may appear as isolated incidences and to build up evidence. It is important to emphasize that we are also talking about non-criminal cases because per se these substances are not under control.
The other issue which is a very critical element in addressing non-scheduled substances is the voluntary cooperation with industries or public-private partnerships. In request of the 2009 Plan of Action INCB had developed guidelines and these have been supplemented by practical guides notes for the implementation of that with an initially focus on the chemical industry. However, as you see these have been gradually expanded and diversified also to include other types of manufacturing industries and others that play a role along the distribution chain, including the internet service providers. The industries are important partners since they are in the intersection of licit trade and trafficking. What need to be done in a national level is an alert system of suspicious transactions both for controlled and non-controlled precursors and also for the NPS and the fentanyls.
At an international level is it important to put all these into a common framework, an enabling framework for the exchange for the intelligence and cooperation. The infrastructure is available. Alsoa provision from the 1988 Convention, article 13, is currently underutilized and this talks in regards to equipment and materials, while asks countries to prevent trade into the diversion of these items and to cooperate to that end. For example, tableting machines [that could be used] for fentanyls and NPS since retail packaging is often made at the destination country. International scheduling will -and will have to continue certainly for priority substances however is clear that we cannot schedule everything. There is a need for new approaches and one of them is the early on reviewing/scheduling groups or classes of precursors that are very similar from a chemical point of view. To put designer precursors substances with no regular trade- at the tables of the 1988 Convention [would] require an administrative setup to monitor legitimate trade but since these substances are not traded per se, there might be a consideration to separate the interdiction from the licit trade monitoring starting with ones with no known legitimate uses- into lists. From the work we have done and our interaction with MS and their experts on this area, we could see an informal agreement, a resolution or 3 – 4 very practical steps as a way forward on this.
UNITED STATES – Regarding precursors, their potential use and counterfeit pills, is that something you see being directed towards production of, it can also include tableting machines on how do they intersect with precursor chemicals. Also, how can countries expert-participate in INCB online information exchange? How does that actionable information translate or could INCB assist countries in developing precursor controls in response? What countries should be doing from INCB perspective to control designer precursors?
PAKISTAN – Regarding the element of capacity building, I believe that when it comes to NPS the forensic capacity at a national level to properly identify and produce analysis report is extremely important as it has been emphasized in various settings like the CND or expert level meetings also, so how INCB is cooperating with UNODC to promote and properly address the forensic capacity needs of MS in this area? When I say capacity building needs I don’t necessarily refer only to meetings but also to the availability of modern deduction equipment for the frontline law enforcement officials.
CANADA – I wonder if some thought has been given as NPS’ are put forwarded for scheduling through the ECDD process, if maybe the precursors to those synthetics could be considered before were even aware of a trade in them?
BARBARA REMBERG, SINCB – Regarding precursors and their use to create counterfeit pills and also the use of tableting machines, what we have seen occasionally is that once a diversion scheme in a particular country somehow employ the importation of a precursor that is meant for the production of a pharmaceutical but it was actually diverted into illicit methamphetamine production and the pharmaceutical product ended not containing the precursor, or just being a fake product. Linking the precursor diversion illicit drug manufacture with the production of counterfeit or fake medication is something that happens.
Regarding county participation, we do invite we have done it in bulk- and we also try to enlist throughout the year not only countries but also national agencies with an encouragement to register via email were the access to the systems/platform is then arranged. Regarding the improvement of a country’s infrastructure to precursor control, a lot is happening now through actual cases because the basics are there. Most countries have now legislations, most countries now know what to do, perhaps they have different levels of sophistication but there is some sort of cooperation within. There is a direct communication with governments on certain cases in a quest for improved cooperation and control. At the surface everything is there, but since we are talking of a complex problem we need to start thinking beyond routine processes and drill into certain early on sharing of information. There is where the advantage is on. For instance when a country/company rejects an order it shouldn’t be considered the end of the story but the beginning seeing that if this trafficker wasn’t successful with one company will then go to the next one and so forth. We should act on the spirit of the Convention.
Regarding forensic capacity building, there have been occasional situations of ad hoc one on one feedback with government when there are complications with a particular analysis.
[panel], UNODC (within the same response) – We are looking literally at hundreds of substances and the challenge of the law enforcement is not just in terms of identifying and detecting of these. We are talking about very potent substances and the issue of safety comes on board. How we keep the law enforcement safe when they handle these substances? How do you protect the environment from these compounds? INCB and UNODC complement each other. They take care of the infrastructure development and we are coming with the forensic capacity building. But, it shouldn’t be expected from law enforcement officers to carry a chemistry degree to identify all those substances. So in addition to UNODC traditional kits that allow law enforcement officers to identify typical substances, we now are rolling out a number of devices based on raman spectroscopy technology, which allows officers to simply point-shoot-identify the substance. We are also look at disposal of chemicals and provide counties with the related support. In terms of laboratories, at the moment UNODC is supporting 230 laboratories from 80 countries. We provide them with the reference standards of precursors and drugs so they are able to identify the substances when they come across them. Also, we run proficiency tests for these laboratories twice a year to ensure the quality of the service.
Regarding Canada’s question, I would say that this is impossible. When we are talking on an end-product we have exponentially the number of precursors so the approach that I was referred to is more that when we see a precursor on the market we not only look at assessing this one-precursor but we also look at what is closely related to avoid this immediate shift between chemically near-identical substances.
ANGELA ME, Research and Trend Analysis Branch, UNODC – In an overview of the latest trends as seen at the World Drug Report (WDR) we note that drug markets have never been so diversified with so many substances available but also with so large quantities ever available. When we look at the plant-base market we see reckord-high production of opium and cocaine. Not only we see increases in quantities of coca leaves (17% up from 2017/ Colombia) but also we see increases in the land that was used to cultivate (productive area) (30% up from 2017/ Colombia) within the productive year. In opium production we see a decline in cultivation (2% down from 2017) with a further decline to be expected due to the reported drought in Afghanistan. In regards to the price, although traditionally when there is a decrease in production there is an increase in the price, we see a decrease suggesting that the demand is shrinking and the opium market is saturated.
In regards to the manufacturing of heroin, based on assumptions from last year we believe that up to 50% of opium is being used to the production of heroin in Afghanistan in 2018 leading to the fact that there is still some opium exported from Afghanistan suggesting an opium demand outside of Afghanistan therefore an increase in heroin production outside of Afghanistan. From anecdotal information we have the reporting of heroin laboratories through the Balkan routes up to Europe. However is not clear whether these labs are to extract heroin from morphine or to manufacture heroin from opium. Additionally there have been some heroin seizures in counties that is not expected suggesting overall a shift from the production of heroin from Afghanistan to other countries. These are only indications, therefore we need to explore more. In regards to the heroin price at destination (EU & US), both in wholesale and in retail prices are decreasing which is a reflection of an increase in supply that related to the reckord-high production of 2017. The increase in supply is also reflected in the purity/price relation.
In regards to cannabis use, the latest global trends suggest an overall increase regardless of the decrease in seizures [that has been also reported]. When looking at the quantities of seized cannabis and [not only on] the number of seizures it is suggested that there is not an decrease in supply but actually a decrease in law enforcement prioritisation on cannabis.
An alarming issue that remains is on the synthetic opioids in North America where not only there is no sign of demand/supply reduction but an increase in overdose deaths from approx. 64,000 in 2016 to 72,000 in 2017. In addition, we should not forget the situation in North Africa with tramadol where there is a clean non-medical use, evidence deriving from seizure records and not from use where there is a lack of information. Same in West Bank in Palestine. In addition we are still investigating whether this is diverted from licit production or is illicit production. According to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, drug related deaths are amounted to about 450,000/year and the main drug of concern remains opium but is also important to see that people are also dying from indirect causes like HIV and HCV. About 45% of all drug-related deaths [are attributable to] HIV and HCV infections together. In regards to direct deaths (i.e. drug overdoses) being reported by the WHO we see an increase of 60% from 100,000 to 168,000 deaths.
Regarding synthetic drugs, methamphetamine continues to dominate the market with seizure reports in increase in Southeast Asia and North America with an overall suggestion that the market itself is still on the increase. Regarding the NPS, we have reached over 850 identified NPS in 150 countries but what is important is to look not so much on the number of NPS but also on the type or the type of effect (i.e. the rise of synthetic opioids) that is on the rise. Last it is important to note on the data collection. So far we have received about 100 ARQs (Annual Report Questionnaire) which is still far from last year’s number so I encourage MS that haven’t done it so far to do so.
MARTIN RAITHELHUBER, Global SMART Programme, UNODC – From 2009 the global monitoring of synthetic drugs has evolved to include non conventional data sources, (e.g. toxicology data) to respond to new information needs i.e to the prioritization of the psychoactive substances when it comes to reviewing them and potentially scheduling them. The Global Synthetics Monitoring Programme of UNODC (SMART) has also evolved in response to these trends, in response to a changing drug landscape from a predominantly analysing trends to now also include early warning. The global emergence of NPS it is truly global, all regions are affected in some way, some more than others. We have different regional trends and where we do not see a lot of substances being reported by MS this may be also due to limited capacity to identify these substances. So the situation we are seeing here is both reflecting on the trends but also on the technical capacity, in the way MS are affected but also in the position MS are able to understand these trends.
Since 2009 we are seeing an increasing number of substances being reported every year. So the complexity and the diversity of the NPS on the market had increased year by year until about 2013-2014 which then is followed by a plateauing. The substance market composition is also evolving year by year but the number no longer seems to increase. I wish to highlight the ways of innovation we observe, where the attention of traffickers is setting on. For a while we had to focus on synthetic cannabinoids. They are still around and still carry the potential to cause great harm but they have moved to a specific, often very vulnerable parts of the population, such as the prison population and the homeless. The latest trend that you are all aware off is of the synthetic opioids which are affecting a large market characterised by problem drug use and thus these substances have great potential to cause further harm, including a lot of fatalities. It is likely that the focus of innovation, i.e. the misled ingenuity of drug traffickers will remain on this group for a while. The speed this can happened is best explained on the synthetic opioids were back in 2012-2013-2014 this was only a nieshe phenomenon, merely isolated events but within a few year the number of synthetic opioids -non with any medical use- has basically exploded to now almost 40 of them (about 60 are known in total) being reported on the market.
With all the attention and rightfully so on NPS newly emerging problems and often highly toxic and very dangerous substances we should not forget the biggest drug on the synthetic drug market; methamphetamine. The seizures have been increasing over the last years, with the quantities seized on 2016 being 5 times the amount of 2009. There are 2 main regions with methamphetamine trafficking and methamphetamine use found in North America and East/Southeast Asia. However, [the aforementioned] has become a global issue, with all regions of the world being involved in some way or the other: e.g. as source of precursors, as location of manufacture, as transhipment points, or methamphetamine trafficking. The globalisation of the methamphetamine market is the most prominent feature in recent years.
In regards to trends behind trends and the changes on how we (UNODC) are making business, early warning has become an important element; that is to translate into trend analysis and threat analysis which thereupon needs to be communicated. We cannot do this alone. We need more frequent communication about emerging trends.
CHLOE CARPENTER, Drug Research Section, UNODC – Trafficking of the darknet typically consist of a person who is hiding his/her digital identity by using of Tor portal, is going to a trading platform and with the use of some darknet search engines is purchasing drugs. Usually drugs are purchased with cryptocurrencies and typically are sent by post. The hidden web, including of the darknet contains 90-96% of all this information. A number of studies show that drug trafficking is the single most important illegal activity on the darknet, including chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In terms of means of drug purchased, we see an increase of the use of darknet in all regions over the past years: up to 9,3% of users are reporting that. A number of sources have shown that when online markets are taken down by law enforcement, vendors and buyers simply migrate to the next largest market in a sense of displacement of the activities.
The comparative advantage of the darknet ensures anonymity of the transactions (there is no trackbacking into sellers and into buyers), ensures personal safety (since there is no physical contact with the retailers), the products are being generally of better quality and if not at least there is a better viability, and last there is always better availability. Therefore the consumers are willing to pay a better price for the same product. In addition the darknet attracts newcomers that otherwise would not visit street markets. In regards to drug purchase numbers over the darknet there has been an increase in all substance purchases but the NPS. We are not sure of the reason behind that. In terms of revenues, although is has been increasing fast over the last years (up to 50% upfold) it is still only a tiny fraction (0.1-0.2%) of the retail market in the US and the EU. In terms of trend revenue differences to the retail market-share, we see for instance that heroin on the darknet is only 5% and in retail is 25-28% and respectively ecstasy (MDMA) is much more prevalent in the darknet than in the retail market.
In regards to key challenges in the fight against drugs on the darknet, law enforcement need to have technical equipment (i.e. computers, software, IT tools) to access the deepweb including of the darknet as well as technical expertise specialised in internet/darknet science and drug trafficking organisations. In addition there is a number of legal challenges: 1) the ability to identify the responsible jurisdiction when the physical location of the buyer is not known, 2) the absence of a system to share information when an investigation is taking place, 3) the issue of attribution of activities of the darknet and the issue that is posed by the need to use undercover agents to infiltrate such networks, 4) the need to use malwares to penetrate the accounts of the computers of the drug sellers and buyers, 5) the need of technical instruments to prevent the destruction of incriminating evidence, 6) the issue of decrypting accesses, also 7) the issue faced by undercover agents that have to use the former drug vendors to retain the darknet credibility, 8) the right of secrecy of email, 9) the issue of the effective seizure of cryptoprofits in the case of an arrest, and last 10) the fast adeptability/evolvement of the darknet.
COLOMBIA – The 2018 WDR stated that increase coca bush cultivation in Colombia was down to changes in the market and strategies of the drug trafficking organisation, I would like to ask Ms Me if she could explain what this change in the market dynamic entails. What responses are the organisations working in that area coming up with to counter that? In the subsequent panel presentation we saw a psychoactive substances map of 2017 and it showed high number for Europe and North America, for example Sweden and Finland. What is the reason for this? Lastly, on the use of drug trafficking, one of the graphs showed that amphetamine purchase on the darknet was 3 times of cocaine, what is the reason behind this?
EGYPT – In regards to the challenges posed by the darknet in relation to the sharing of information, how does scheduling of drugs affect the sharing of information? Do you find scheduled substances easier to follow on the darknet or it makes not difference?
AFGHANISTAN – In regards to acetic anhydride (AA), could Ms Me explain a bit more how AA is finding its way into Afghanistan? Where exactly these conversions from opium to heroin happen? How can we manage that?
ANGELA ME, UNODC – On market dynamics and the relative strategies, Colombia has been traditionally involved more on the US and in Europe but now we see an expansion into other regions as well and that may create a higher demand thus higher supply etc. Also, after the peace agreement there are now new groups, members of organised crime that are managing coca production territories.
On the issue of AA in Afghanistan, -not only in Afghanistan actually but in neighboring countries as well- from how it looks there has been an intensive effort to stop AA. It comes from different regions both from Europe and in Asia but where it is being diverted is the question which I don’t have the answer but is there that it should be stopped.
UNITED STATES – Synthetic opioids remain a priority for the US both in public health and law enforcement, but in the background we continue to see other drugs of abuse (e.g. stimulants) increasing in morbidity and in mortality. Based on current challenges we are experiencing, where do you see the greatest data gap related to the world drug problem and with that how can we as MS better address those data gaps at a national level. In further, can MS or UNODC address those gaps? Also, given INCB treaty mandated data collection, are there areas that overlapping between UNODC ARQ data collection and INCB data collection? Are there opportunities to supplement and streamline the ARQ with the INCB data collection?
EUROPOL – After we took down Hansa and Alphabay (darknet marketplaces) we conducted a study on the type of impact the takedown provided and we realised that indeed it had a short life significant impact. From July 2017 until the end of 2017 the markets did not fully recover, by means of a change in the operating environment by the vendors. It also posed an additional challenges for the investigators (i.e. less transactions, higher prices). There has also been a move in a more decentralised market place; more country or/and language specific ones. The question remains whether there is organised crime behind these new markets or single vendors and this is the intelligence gap we are trying to close with our current actions.
CHLOE CARPENTER, UNODC – In regards to Colombia’s question, I don’t really have concrete evidence as to why is amphetamine purchase on darknet are higher than cocaine and why it is increasing faster but we have to take into consideration that the WDR is on a sample of people who are willing to answer so it’s self-selected and from a selected number of countries. Although it is a WDR we should not consider it as a global representative. Overall we tried to present to you the available evidence of a number of studies; they are not representative of what is happening on the darknet. These are only pieces of evidence.
[panel], UNODC (within the same response) – In regards to how some countries are showing much higher number of NPS than others, the most prominent reason for that is that in some countries it is actually a requirement to sent every single drug sample to the laboratory to proceed with the case and this is for example the situation in the Scandinavian countries. This information does not stay in the laboratory but it is reported through the channels (EMCDDA) and reaches us. There are also some legal reasons for [these discrepancies] and also relevant to the forensic capacity of each country.
ANGELA ME, UNODC – With regards to Colombia’s last question, the issue is eventually not only what it is actually produced but also what ends up in the market. We tried to calculate the interception rate and we do see that this has been increasing over the years but I also have to say that this information is extremely fragile and weak because particularly about cocaine we know from different countries that there is an over-reporting because particularly when there are joint operations each country reports the same results. Also there is the issue with purity: what we calculate in the source is pure cocaine but we never seize pure cocaine.
In regards to US’s question on research gaps, the most acute are on the demand side. We tend to consider that the problem is bigger in countries that tend to report better. And to add to Egypt’s question there is not always the political will from every country to share transparently good and quality data. So it’s not only the capacity but also an issue of political will.
EGYPT – Will the scheduling help in the information sharing in this matter or not?
ANGELA ME, UNODC – Where we see a big difference is the national scheduling. The challenge that we have is that we often don’t know if we have a seizure of a substance that is not internationally controlled, so we don’t know if there increase/decrease in seizures represent more/less scheduling. From our point of you definitely international scheduling helps.
[panel], UNODC (within the same response) – If you look at the effect of international scheduling on the dynamics of the internet, you first have to see the scheduling process which involves WHO informing the world that they are about to look at a substance, if then reviewed it comes to the CND for a decision, and assuming it is tabled under the 1961 Convention it then has about 10 months before it kicks in. In terms of market dynamics, this has a massive effect since it complicates the monitoring. If a substance is not control, it is expected to be on OpenNet. If it is controlled (e.g. some of fentanyls or mephedrone) a shift is expected to the darknet. If you do it on a national level you might see some changes, but on an international level -because of the long process you do see a lot of changes.
VIDEO MESSAGE FROM GRULAC and BRAZILIAN HEALTH REGULATORY AGENCY [missing link]
ANTON KASSARIDI, Russian Federation/Eastern European Group – Since 2016 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation is the main organisation in the country responsible not only for the implementation of the national drug policy but also for countering the illegal drugs trade. The main operational activities are carried out by 2 departments: one of those is the department to counter synthetic drugs and the other one is on natural drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cations in 2017 took second place in our country in terms of dangerous drugs. The bulk of the drugs seized in 2017 is from the cannabis-group narcotics and that is due to the climate in our country. Since 2014 we have began to see a drop off in the demand for heroin and a replacement of opioids by synthetics, including amphetamines, synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cations and psychotropic substances.
Up until the 2014, the mechanism for scheduling of NPS took a long time and it made hard to bring drug traffickers to justice. When a substance was controlled then immediately new uncontrolled substances would appear on the market. Since 2014, we have had an effective mechanism allowing us to prosecute not only for illegal trade of drugs under the national controlled scheduled but also spreading their derivatives analogues. It is very important to say that there is a significant parts of the substances identified, never been seized in Russia but they are scheduled on a preventative basis, based on international research and practice. In the course of 3 years we have not seen NPS appear in Russia and this situation continues until September 2018 when a number of russian regions seized a small amount of cannabinoids.
Since 2012 in Russia we have seen a highly active narcotic drug appear called carfentanyl. In recent years a number of the fentanyl group drugs appeared and were seized in small quantities. At the moment in Russia there is a significant quantity of drugs which are distributed over the internet. “Hydra” was created over the internet in 2016, it operates using tor and it is similar to comparable resources with the US and the EU and transactions and payments using cryptocurrencies. Russian law enforcement bodies have managed to stop the criminal activities in some of these very large trading platforms. Starting from summer this year up to date we have been carried out an operation addressing the #1 drug market in Russia which is sells ecstasy.
EGYPT – In regards to the preventive scheduling methodology, maybe we can have a better insight on how this takes place.
ANTON KASSARIDI, Russia – We carry out monitoring of the seizures of drugs and we use a system like Eurodex, the belarusian platform, and thanks to this platform we receive information on the emergence of new drugs in the world and we preventively we put them on the national schedule without waiting for them to appear in our country.
BRIAN HARRIS, Bureau of International Narcotics Law Enforcement, US/WoG – We see that the synthetic drug threat is one of the biggest new drug threats we have seen in a long time. It is a fundamentally different form of drug trafficking that we haven’t seen before in such scale. Now we have the mobilisation of the chemical industry to create a variety of different products that are primarily opioids, having fentanyl and its analogues as the major killer, with having the US suffering over 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year alone. It is a major problem and a major challenge. We don’t see it replacing the plant-based drug challenge but we see it overlaying and exacerbating the plant-base, in some cases mixing with the plant-based drug challenges in drugs like cocaine and heroin. What makes it in particular challenging is that synthetic drugs can be manufactured in any part of the world, it’s a mobile product. These drugs are inexpensive to produce and they are easily altered by the development of new analogues to avoid controls when we schedule them.
The technological aspects of this is also trivial charging the developing of this market, access to the darknet, access to telegram or other peer to peer encrypted messaging tools as well as the exploitation of other social marketing tools; all present new challenges and they offer an entrepreneurial drug dealer a new way to get into the market. No longer is required to come up with larger organisations or employ violence to dominate the market. FBI is estimating that in about an hour one can be online using the tor browser and selling drugs. I reference the case of mister Aaron Samo which in very short time we was able to amount a multimillion dollar business operating from his grandmother’s basement. Detecting this kind of trafficking is a unique challenge for law enforcement.
So what can we do about it? There is a number of areas we are looking at across the supply chain, -trying to disrupt the organisation, trying to disrupt the ability of amatures criminals such as Aaron Samo to get into the market. We would like to increase the barriers and make it harder by increasing the risk of operating in this area and the difficulties to obtain drugs through the internet. We are continue to focusing on a balanced approach by reducing the consumer market through treatment and prevention initiatives and allow our law enforcement colleagues to focus on the major criminals in larger networks. For a while it appeared that the opioid crisis would be only a US phenomenon due to our poor prescribing practices but we are really seeing that the NPS phenomenon is a global phenomenon. It is an issue we need to confront as a Commission.
To tackle the production we need to talk about what we can do to reduce the diversion and also stop the illicit production of synthetic drugs. The thing with chemicals is that criminals can easily avoid the conviction by shifting the production methods to use of uncontrolled chemicals. We estimate that there is around 1920 or so different analogues of fentanyl that can be created in a regime where we can only schedule 12 substances per year; we need to do something to accelerate the scheduling of drugs. Also, diversion to criminal channels is also a significant problem and we need to work together to figure out ways to stop the diversion by having more meetings and more rapid scheduling, or also by looking at new ways of scheduling like wide-scheduling by psychotropic effect, or by grouping more chemicals together at once. We can also make use of article 13 of the 1988 Convention by controlling tableting pills.
A big part of the problem is that many of the product that are used to go into the synthetic drugs are illicit products for illicit uses that are made by legitimate companies, therefore we need to ensure we have a proper control over those by requiring partnership with the industry. We also talked about how many of these products are sold online or by some soft of electronic means and then transported by mail; the ports of entry is a critical point we need to focus on. One tool to help the law enforcement is advanced technology such as scanners that can detect whether a package contains synthetic drugs; also helping the capacity of the law enforcement to use these tools. Now more than ever the sharing of information we believe is vital to keep pace with the innovation of criminals. Luckily we have this body with UNODC, INCB and the WHO who collectively support online information sharing platforms that allow real time cooperation among our experts and offer immediate information on trafficking and new trends. These are data dependant and data driven so the more data it’s in there the better it will be.
Targeting the online sales and the financial flows in a new area for the US. We see the increased use of technological platforms and virtual currencies to facilitate these sales; the scope and the scale of different types of technological platforms are growing in an exponential rate and we need to work together to stay away of the curve on this. The Budapest convention is one prime example on how to do that; one platform that can be used to mobilise international cooperation to enable our experts to share information on cybercrime and to conduct investigations. One major gap we see in the global regulatory regime in the architecture to be able to control synthetic drugs is the increased use of virtual currencies for purchase drugs; these are new and poorly regulated. Establishing national virtual currency regulations is an important step.
We also find that there is a fair amount of trafficking that happens with cash sales, i.e. cash transfer with Western Union. Cash continues to be the best and the most anonymous form of currency so working together to enhance our traditional money laundry methodologies is important. Even with virtual currencies due to the limited acceptance of the virtual currencies most legitimate outlets the criminals have to enter the virtual currency into the real currency world at some point and that offers a great target for law enforcement.
US supports a comprehensive and balanced approach to international drug policy as we all agreed on the 2016 UNGASS Outcome document. We believe that effective supply reduction interventions must be in handed with demand reduction interventions. The extent of the synthetic problem is underestimated to a large extend due to the lack of data on global drug use. So enhanced data collection and information sharing at national, regional and international levels is essential also to inform understanding of what substances are being misused. We have some mechanisms already so we can lean on these and help collect and share the data. So we encourage countries to socialise the increased use of the systems with the view to enhancing the information we receive on existing trends.
In the area of drug demand interventions we also have a body of evidence based best practices that are found at the international standards of drug use treatment and international standards of drug use prevention and these can be deployed to specifically target synthetic drugs.
Regarding partnerships and action, this is a global problem we are talking about so no one country and certainly no one agency within a country can be solely responsible for containing the problem; -there must be an international effort where we all work together. We believe we need to mobilize new partnerships within our respective countries and with each other. An extended partnership should include an array of traditional and nontraditional actors including the private sector, academia, civil society also strategic cooperation with legitimate pharmaceutical internet companies, and UNODC, INCB and WHO. Through these organisations we can strategize and coordinate action at a global level.
NETHERLANDS – In order to fight supply, you need to know why there is demand and regarding fentanyl what is the reason that people use it?
RUSSIA – Regarding Aaron Samo’s case, how did he sell his products since he had no criminal background and also regarding his assets were these seized and confiscated? RUSSIAN FINANCIAL MONITORING OFFICE: How did he save his money? How was it decided that his assets were totalled? Where were they kept? Aslo, with regards to cryptocurrencies, how do you work or operate with the law enforcement agencies and cryptocurrencies? When do you if required involve the law enforcement bodies of other countries or financial intelligence units of other countries when assets are held beyond the US borders?
US – In relation as to why fentanyl, that is because of the addiction crisis at the US originated largely with prescription opioids in pill form. Fentanyl has proven to be the cheapest alternative for drug producers or drug traffickers in producing fake pills with it. We are also seeing cartels of traffickers cutting fentanyl into heroin packages to increase the profitability of heroin since fentanyl is so cheap and also increase the psychotropic effect on the drug.
Regarding the Samo’s case, at his home about 2 million dollars were seized in cash and about 7 million in silver bars. To our knowledge he was distributing locally within the US/North America, so he would get his fentanyl then press it in the pills or packets and then distributed. There are how-to guides for the ones who want to have a look. According to our law enforcement it is an easy task even for one without experience to very quickly get into the business. In regard to cryptocurrencies in his case I believe it was a domestic operation that delivered the investigation and arrest Aaron Samo. Major effort is now put into trying to identify appropriate national level regulation that we can then share.
CHAIR – Due to time management allow me to continue with the rest of the questions from MS after mister Onidi’s presentation.
OLIVIER ONIDI, European Commission/ DG Home – No one is immune; availability and production is on the rise in the EU and drug have become the largest criminal market. The new challenges are very much in line with what you have tackled so far; 2 aspects of a particular concern on our side: 1) the development of regular online sales but also progressively the move towards places like the darknet, 2) the increase in potent substances including fentanyls.
We have seen a massive progression in cooperation amongst all actors in terms of sharing of information and intelligence. This is something we need to continue. Also, we need to develop new investigative techniques, new tools, new technologies, and to train out stuff differently since the criminals are using new vectors. We also focus on recovering and freezing criminal assets. Nothing is more effective than following the financial flows. Hence the very strong development to improve our legislative framework which has now put a renewed emphasis on anti-money laundering; both in prevention and in criminalisation. We have also worked on providing better tools and also more direct means for the law enforcement community on financial information. Another aspect is the cooperation with all of you; we have never mobilised in terms of technical assistance with the entire region of the world on this subject and we have never embarked in so many dialogues with key partners.
On how to tackle NPS, we see those developing in quite an alarming pace. On the response we 1) modernise our legislative framework in order to be able to respond immediately whenever a substance being discovered or formally registered; now it is a matter of few weeks from more than a year that used to be, and to massively develop the scientific work to detect those substances with the development of an early warning system managed by EMCDDA, allowing partners to team up exchanging information very quickly. 2) on the issue with precursors and the new set of responses: we count very much on the discussion that we have had in this context last CND in order to be more effective in spotting and fighting these precursors. EU is currently reviewing its legislative framework, as well as the instruments that we have in light of the discussions we had here, and we hope to come with proposed solutions by next CND. In the meantime, we are trying to strengthen the instruments we are using first by the use of risk analysis in customs, the use of better intelligence and also developing better detection capabilities and better cooperation with the private industry. Another formidable scientific challenge is to be better at devising all these substances into our globalised world. We need to get the private sector to develop internal review monitoring mechanism in order to devise those substances. We continue to support INCB and the various communication systems that are related to this.
In regard to designer precursors the current EU legislation entails what we call “catch all” provision in which we are provided with the possibility to ban the entry and the export of any of such substances. Finally, to add the designer precursors to our voluntary monitoring list works with the help of all actors: the manufacturers, the distributors, in order to increase the responsibility of the wider community. On the upcoming HLMS let us please focus on the implementation of all our programmes and discussions by confronting our ministers with 4-5 prioritised areas would make a tremendous difference.
AUSTRIA – In regard to the darknet and the measures that focus on the customs control, could you elaborate on the measures linked to the cooperation with the parcel delivery services and how this cooperation is ongoing within the EU MS.
FRANCE – In regard to ensuring control of chemical exports and the appearance of NPS, we hope that a solution can quickly be found in order to allow the instruments to be applied and meet their lofty objectives.
RUSSIA – Is this a stand-alone area you addressed or is it considered in the broader context of anti-drugs control or anti-drugs policies?
OLIVIER ONIDI, DG Home – Responding to Russia’s question, I did not by any means wanted to enter into the field of the links between terrorism and drug trafficking etc. Some of the cooperation avenues that we see bearing a lot of fruit in fighting the criminal organisations in the drugs field we see these instruments as having been developed very extensively because of the terrorism threat and is it in the field of information exchange, is it in the field of joint activities these are some of the very good lessons we can now use to fight criminal organisations.
In regard to Austria’s question, this is a good area where we see that there is no fatality even when confronted with new phenomena such as new substances or new ways of selling those substances there is always a way out if we together take the best out of technology and use all the actors involved. The type of mobilisations that we have managed to get from the entire parcel industry is probably a source of hope that other segments of the industry can also growingly add their instruments in helping us out.
*** end of morning session ***
BRAZIL – In regard to purchases via darknet are consumers aware that are taking fentanyl, and do they look for fentanyl? Do consumers look for fentanyl or they buy other types of drugs that happen to contain fentanyl? Regarding scheduling and more precise the monitoring of tableting equipment and we wish to know more on that if the US is already doing that, how does it work and if you have results of its effectiveness.
EGYPT – In regard to accelerating scheduling processes, could you please introduce us to these new ways of scheduling you mentioned?
BRIAN HARRIS, US/WoG – Regarding user’s awareness over their consumption of fentanyl I have to say that this varies; particularly in cases where heroin has been adulterated with fentanyl cases that often lead to overdoses due to the lack of awareness. We should also note that is not only fentanyl that is being adulterated into heroin; there is a number of toxic adulterants with different kind of effects that used in different combinations: either to enhance the economy for the traffickers or to produce different kind of psychotropic effects. Whether they look for it, that also depends on the user and in some cases the user seeks for a really big high therefore chooses fentanyl and once they have been exposed to that their addiction leads them to seek out that kind of sensation again.
In terms of scheduling and new measures, drug control treaties and our national legislation were not designed to accommodate the velocity which we are seeing NPS coming into the market and the amount of data that is required to process the compounds is quite onerous as we all know from the scheduling processes in the CND in March. What we are looking at is taking classes of compounds and scheduling them all at once. We have done that in an emergency basis, but we have not passed any legislation that would enable us to do it on a permanent basis. Also, is there a legal way within existing frameworks where we can look at the psychotropic effects of a particular substance and bundle those effects into one scheduling action of compounds with no known medical use. In regard to tableting equipment we do have some regulations at place, but they are not very strictly enforced so we don’t have really clear results or a strict regime. We are working to tighten this up. I will reference again Article 13 from the 1988 Convention as the only tool that we have into working on our international capacity by adopting the language from that Treaty.
RUSSIA – The majority of these online shops operate using the Tor network/browser and are registered on the Cloudlab-host which is actually registered in the US. In addition to the Russian resources there is also a large number of resources posted their worldwide resources which provide prohibited information and so on there is a whole movement in fact which is behind these hosting companies, and they work together to hide the real IP addresses of these web resources. Do you know of the work of this company and what do you plan to do with this in the future?
BRIAN HARRIS, US/WoG – Unfortunately, I do not know about this company but there is an ongoing discussion within the US about how to handle illegal activities enabled by the Tor browser but at this time I don’t have detailed information to share.
RUSSIA – There is a whole movement about the enhancement of the anonymity on the internet aimed at undertaking this activity and a large number of volunteers trying to work to cover up the IP addresses of this company. Also, a part of the Islamic State resources where registered in the Cloudlab which is registered in San Francisco.
AFGHANISTAN – My question is to Ms Remberg regarding the situation of acetic anhydride (AA) in Afghanistan. How do you explain the fact that AA is finding its way to the country? Which countries do you think are engaging in that and how can we have prevented it in the future?
BARBARA REMBERG, SINCB – UNODC and INCB have different approaches to tackling the issue from different sides, it’s not the research that we do but we are trying to address the weaknesses and work with the country. In regard to AA I have talked about non-scheduled substances earlier this morning, this is a scheduled substance and the issue is that in a way all international required actions in most countries around the world are in place. Afghanistan has actually banned it even for legitimate import, therefore we do not see any legitimate pre-export notifications in the system to Afghanistan and if we do see them that happens occasionally we put the export country with you together to figure out who was ordering the substance and for who was it intended. We do follow-up in the suspicious shipments, but we also do see not only suspicious offers to supply but requests to purchase. Therefore, the industry cooperation as a source of intelligence and the voluntary cooperation between internet providers and these P2P platforms, and of the authorities in these countries is needed.
Also, there is very limited if any diversion from the international trade of AA, but instead there is some at the domestic level. We are following up with the countries concerned offering case meetings with the details being discussed but again the issue is that whatever happens at the domestic level is outside of our mandate. The difficulty is that many pieces of information that are available are related to non-criminal cases. So, our work focuses not on the purposes of trend analysis research but in case by case basis.
OLYA BYELYAYEVA, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association/ VNGOC – I represent the community of people who use drugs and work in Eurasian Harm Reduction Association. Its mission is the creation of favourable environment for sustainable harm reduction programs and decent lives of people who use drugs in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In our region national drug policies are skewed towards criminalization rather than health-oriented approaches (with an exception of Czech Republic). Methadone is over regulated by law enforcement. This results in massive incarcerations of people who use drugs, HIV/ TB outbreaks, low accessibility and quality of drug treatment. However, recent years were marked by policy dialogues on more effective law enforcement policies, proportionality of punishment, differentiation between drug use and drug dealing, and better cooperation between police and harm reduction programs.
For example, In Estonia in June 2018, the pilot program was launched, which would allow individuals who have been detained for use or possession of a small amount of drugs, to get social and medical support instead of fine punishment. In Lithuania in October 2018 the Parliament has legalized cannabis derived medicines and allowed research with all substances from the 1st list. In Georgia, there are 4 drug policy bills in the parliamentary pipeline now, one the them abolishes the automatic removal of civilian rights from drug convicts and moves this measure to the discretion of judges. However, these positive moves remain caught in the first iterations with the committees. In 2019, in Kyrgyzstan the new Code of Misconduct will come into power, according to which people will not carry criminal records for possession of small amount of drugs, if people would be able to pay a fine at each arrest – as is permitted in the international drug control conventions. As well as good progress though, still much needs to be improved across the region. The strict implementation of drug law enforcement in most countries’ wrecks people’s lives – even for cannabis use. In Lithuania, since 2017 has re-criminalized all drugs. During 2017, 60% out of more than 2,400 criminal records for possession of any amount of any drug, are among people aged 18-29. In Kyrgyzstan the practical implementation of the Code of Misconduct that replaces criminal penalties with fines could increase poverty rates among people who inject drugs and their families, and an inability to pay fines will lead to the growth in prison population at the expense of people who use drugs. In some countries across the region, opioid substitution therapy remains unavailable or existing programmes are at risk of closure.
Our community advocacy efforts are aimed on saving these life-saving programmes, and to promote more inclusive, accessible models such as peer-driven harm reduction and take-home OST pills to support people to live regular lives. This needs to be done to increase the coverage of OST programs in the region which is below the recommended by WHO level. Fundamentally, our work is about reminding countries across the region of their unavoidable obligations to protect the rights of citizens to get the highest attainable level of health and well-being. These obligations override anything else.
EGYPT – There are some countries that are moving towards re-criminalisation so what is the motive or logic behind that?
OLYA BYELYAYEVA, EHRA/VNGOC – It is not an evidence-based decision, or knowledge, or monitoring but it’s more of a political issue. The political vision of these countries is more important than our communities and civil society and the street level testimonies. Communities are not involved in the policy debate or the policymaking processes. The debate is not even on decriminalisation but for policies to obtain a humanistic approach, about reducing the prison population, etc. We stand for the regulation of all substances. It is not only a matter scientifically proven more effective but a clear humanistic approach to drug problem. We all want the same thing. To help out people who are in need, but we say ask these people and most importantly listen to what they have to say. We have the same goal: an approach based on safety, health and well-being.
CANADA – In regard to peer-driven support programmes, would it be possible to have an example of such programme that has been particularly helpful?
OLYA BYELYAYEVA, EHRA/VNGOC – Safer injection facilities is one of the programmes where stuff ask you what you have eaten today, if you have a place to sleep today, if you have a huge state-dept and how you are managing. People are more in need of care than drugs. People need to be respected and live in dignity.
CHINA – I noticed that the speaker is voicing drug users, please allow me to use the term “drug users” since that is what we use in the resolutions instead of people who use drugs, out of curiosity, are you a drug user?
Also, I would like to explain that 200 years ago China forcefully conducted a social experiment on legalising opium in a national scale and it proved to be a disaster and even today we are still struggling at the aftermath of this. In that we really recommend we take serious step forward.
OLYA BYELYAYEVA, EHRA/VNGOC – Yes, I agree with careful thinking on each step forward and yes, I am using drugs. I am an OST patient for the last 10 years or more. Careful regulation, treatment opportunities, different attitudes, and honesty is what we need. Yes, OST has kept me alive and healthy. We need to start talking more about the NPS. People turn to them because of low availability of plant-based drugs. If we return to natural substances and regulate them, we effectively reduce the NPS market.
ANTON LUF, Medical University of Vienna, CHECK IT! – “Check it!” offers substance analysis and individual risk categorisation of -so called- recreational drugs like amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and so one. Service users’ hand in their substances and get them analysed before they are consumed. Those analytical and toxic measures are never placed alone but they are always combined with psychosocial interventions such as information, advice and support (i.e. analysis-based interventions) and in a greater scope the monitoring of the market. From an analytical point of view there are a few requirements for a comprehensive addiction prevention and early intervention and firstly the substance analysis has to provide the identity of all the pharmacological reactive substances in a drug sample that is handed in. Secondly, which is getting more and more important is the quantitative composition of the drug that has to be determined and a fast analysis and communication of the result at the venue is a key requirement since there is evidence that service users are not likely to wait more than 50-60 mins for the screening results.
We have an increasing number of NPS in Vienna and a high complexity of samples; samples that often adulterated with other pharmacologically reactive substances. The most recent and most serious development is the appearance of highly potent NPS within “party settings”. From an analytical point of view, it is extremely important to not overlook the substances we identify because that creates a false sense of safety.
In addition, it is very important to analyse how the service users react to out warnings of a harmful substance: 71% stated that they would not consume, 22% that they would at least take less than usual and only 7% that they will consume the substance. That indicates that service users show great risk awareness when they are presented with the right information, indicating further that informed decision can lead to far less severe intoxication and/or less death.
UNITED KINGDOM – In regard to the demographics of the service users, do you have anything to show their age range? Also, in regard to the preliminary data that you have and whether that you were able to define what you meant by harmful in the questionnaire?
CANADA – If you could provide us with more description on the other parts of the service?
ANGELA ME, UNODC – In regard to the study results on the fact that not everyone would not use the drug knowing that [it is adulterated] it goes back to the use of fentanyl and some results that show some users indeed want to avoid fentanyl however a niche market has been created in the US and Canada for users that actually want to consume fentanyl due to its potency. How do you manage a user that actually wishes to consume a very potent/dangerous substance/es?
NETHERLANDS – In regard to drug testing we know that the main purpose it to reduce the harm, but it has something counterintuitive about it; -people might think that drug testing stimulates the use of drugs. Could you please elaborate a bit on that issue?
SLOVENIA – When someone is spending money on drugs normally they want to use it regardless of the results. In there a drug testing network in Austria or not?
ANTON LUF, CHECK IT! – In regards to Canada’s question, the substance analysis is always placed in the centre of attention because it is very interesting and it happens in public but there are other services as well: drop and shop service that has opening hours twice per week and includes psychosocial counselling, reduction consumption groups etc. and overall we are very well connected with the addictions network in Vienna and in the case a client turns to a patient then he/she is referred to the relevant institutions. There is also online counselling, legal counselling, needle exchange programmes etc. In addition, we feed all of our data to the European monitoring services that contribute to the early warning system.
In regard to the identification of the substances we put a lot of efforts to identify them as fast as possible. On site, if we are not 100% certain on a substance but we do have an idea we announce a warning of an unknown substance. We screen for about 500 substances and if it’s not one of them the counsellor’s advice the service users not to consume the substance. Then we conduct further analysis and after we have identified the substance we update our database.
In regard to our survey and the definition of a harmful substance, one of the questions referred to a possible case of a high potent substance and how would one respond so harm was defined as something that could cause an imminent threat to the user (i.e. toxic adulterants or high substance potency).
In regard to Netherlands’ question on the stimulation of use through drug testing let me report that on Check it! site we have a wall where we post our results and warnings and quite often we have young people passing by, get informed and in cases have a counselling session. Also, every potential consumer does not leave without a counselling session; that is the reason we call it analysis-based intervention and not just drug checking.
In regard to Slovenia’s question I must say that we are very well connected. Before each event we consult with the local police, the ambulances and hospitals and after the event there is a report going on the drug services of Vienna, the national drug coordinator and the focal points get the data right away. We also circulate an email with all the warnings of an event received by all medical stuff, including of universities and whoever else is involved.
RUSSIA – Is there any connection between you and the law enforcement bodies?
ANTON LUF, CHECK IT! – As a preface I have to say that our service users maintain their anonymity. Yes, we are connected to the law enforcement; before each of our events we inform the local law enforcement and afterwards through our focal points, all warnings are shared also with law enforcement.
CHAIR – Now I wish to open the floor for our thematic debate.
CHINA – Before entering my national position, I wish to explain to our colleague from the NGO that my question regarding “drug users” was meant in order to identify the relevancy of her representation. At this point please be reminded that we do have a resolution that provides for no stigmatising attitudes to drug users so in CND we [carry] no prejudice to anyone, including of all drug users. Secondly, I wish to mention that policies have incentives and guiding directions, so we need to make sure that all citizens are better off with the new policies we introduce or when we reinforce some old policy.
The Chinese government has been persistent in cracking down drug related crimes by carrying out various special law enforcement operations against illicit trafficking, promoting international law enforcing cooperation and actively responding to drug related problems in cyberspace. Our research and assessment are based on our big data intelligence. In terms of cooperation in cross-border cases, China has recently successfully cooperated with multiple countries in the region in a series of cases to eliminate a bunch of drug trafficking groups.
CANADA – I would like to take this opportunity to underscore the major impact NPS, particularly the synthetic opioids have been having on Canada’s ongoing crisis of overdoses and death. The challenges faced by Canada provide us with an opportunity to share our experiences with other MS. It is with grave concern that I note that in the Canadian experience we saw that the impact of synthetic opioids on overdoses and death rates increased very rapidly when these substances began to circulate in any given jurisdiction. We also noted substantial increases in drug related harms other than overdoses as well.
Canada continues to support the international scheduling process, including the Treaty-mandated roles of the INCB and WHO in collecting data and connecting their rigorous science evidence-based review and supporting the international scheduling of the most prevalent, persistent and harmful substances. However, it is important to note -as was noted in the resolution 61/8 in March that was called “Enhancing and strengthening international and regional cooperation and domestic efforts to address the international threats posed by the non-medical use of synthetic opioids” a comprehensive international response also needs to consider national and regional actions that can address these concerns. Canada has been working very hard to take a number of new regulatory approaches to address NPS. We have been scheduling classes of substances, both based on agonist receptors activation activity for the cannabinoids or structural analogues for the Fentanyls Canada has legal mechanisms to allow for the temporary emergency scheduling of substances. We have begun registering -what we call- designated devices (e.g. pill crushes, tableting machines and capsulators) and we have increased border control efforts, allowing border agencies to open and examine small packages when they have reasonable cause to do so. These efforts will continue to allow Canada’s balanced approach on drug policy under the Canadian drugs and substances strategy through the 4 pillars of prevention, treatment, law enforcement and harm reduction. Finally, I wish to underscore that Canada is very pleased to offer its full support to the UNODC and partner MS in the project to describe and create a toolkit available for MS who wish to consider additional measures that could be implemented under their national legislation to more effectively address serious potentially yet realised problems including the non-medical use of synthetic opioids.
COLOMBIA – We are working on chemical profiling of these NPS, we can understand the dynamics of the supply of these substances in addition to which we need to promote the revision and particularly the updating of follow-up mechanisms for the development of illicit drug developing and trafficking connected crime. In these new challenges we, the MS, must promote a strengthening of national measures in order to address the challenge of NPS and the threat of amphetamine-type stimulants. Colombia’s proposal is to strengthen the existing control systems in order to prevent the deviation of controlled chemical substances. In this regard there is a need to promote the implementation of information mechanisms also systems for the notification priority export of chemical substances and also need to identify and manage controlled substances by relevant organisations. Colombia encourages the carrying out of analysis which also covers a comparison of chemical substances which are controlled substances. We also need to build on the capacities of forensic laboratories in order to analyse chemical substances, precursors and pharmaceutical products, including NPS. There is a need to implement measures aimed at controlling pharmaceutical products which contain precursors with the aim to preventing deviation for non-medical purposes. There is also the need to update legislation to include existing controlled measures in order to prevent this kind of diversion. There is the need to promote better cooperation, focus on improving the detection analysis capacities when it comes to NPS, making available resources and tools for those responsible in this area in line with the responsibilities MS have to do to.
AUSTRIA of behalf of EU – We recognise the need to effectively respond to the evolving reality, the trends and the existing circumstances for an integrated, evidence-based and balanced drug control policies. Nowadays, we are more concerned than ever before with the emergence and spread of the NPS and EMCDDA currently monitors more than 670 new substances of which 400 are available in the market in any given year. Although new drugs are reported to the EU early warning system at a rate of 1 per week in 2017 the overall number of first detections decreased again for the second consecutive year to just 51 detections for 2017. This may be a positive sign at first sight but when we look at the substances they have been detected in 2017 we see that these are getting more and more potent and more and more dangerous. There are a number of reasons to explain why the appearance of new NPS are slowing: some countries blanket bans (i.e. generic analogue based legislations) and other measures to target the producers and retailers of NPS. In addition, control measures and law enforcement operations in China targeting laboratories producing substances may be an influencing factor. We are worried about the appearance of new potent pills which are mainly fentanyl derivatives on the market. Lately there have been several outbreaks of overdose related deaths in vulnerable populations and among users injecting psychoactive substances. Currently the problem affects only a few MS and new fentanyls are playing relatively small role in EU drug market in general. However, trends show that the market share is increasing. MS confronted with the problem are reporting high rates of overdose related deaths and extensive health consequences.
Remaining threats are also the new synthetic cations and cannabinoids which are usually much stronger than regular stimulants and cannabis on the market. The EU and its MS have taken several measures to address the challenges posed by the NPS. Since 1997 the EU has developed the capacity to detect, identify and assess the risk associated in order to respond drastically and effectively to the emergence of NPS by applied if necessary controlled measures. As of November, this year a new legislation for the NPS will apply in the EU cutting by half the time needed to control NPS. The work of the national authorities allows a quick and useful say of the EU early warning system. The active cooperation of forensic laboratories, custom authorities, law enforcement and public health services along with EUROPOL and the EMCDDA will create a dynamic process of exchange of information and knowledge to enable us to respond more effectively to this threat.
From lessons learned in the past we know that successful management of the situation in NPS requires not only measures of control and supply reduction, but also demand reduction and harm reduction measures. The prevention of and the response to the adverse health consequences and risk associated with the use of NPS is a priority for the EU and its MS. We emphasise the need for further research into the development of scientific, evidence-based health responses and training to help those providing prevention, health care and social services to prevent and address the health consequences associated with NPS. Prevention and education on the risk of NPS should be an integral part of our efforts to face these challenges.
Illicit trade on darknet market is one manifestation of the increasingly complex nature of transnational organised crime. Drugs are estimated to account to around ⅔ of the darknet market activity. The report 2018 “Internet organised crime threat assessment” leads us to the conclusion that Europe need greater investment and continuous innovation if we are to keep pace with the challenges we face in this area. Law enforcement authorities across the EU have noted a significant increase in the number of cases involving the illicit trade of drugs in darknet over the last 4 years. However, the proportion of illicit online drugs remain small compared with traditional distribution and trafficking. It remains to be seen whether this comparatively new channel of supply supplement or otherwise affect drug demand. This development poses serious threat to the health and security of the citizens across the EU and worldwide, demonstrates a continuing need for greater cooperation and collaboration between law enforcement community. The rising number of illicit trafficking on the internet also creates an environment for demand reduction intervention. Finding ways to prevent and reduce drug use and offer counselling treatment and risk and harm reduction services and in these settings seems to be a possible path to take for the future. Internet based interventions have the potential to extend the geographical coverage treatment programmes to people who are experiencing drug use problems who may not otherwise access specialist drug services. In the EU a wide range of treatment intervention including brief interventions for cannabis use are provided online. The EU and its MS believe that through our joint efforts we can effectively tackle the new challenges.
SINGAPORE –The proliferation of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) continue to pose a formidable challenge for many countries. Despite our best efforts, supply and abuse of the substances remain pervasive. The global NPS market continue to be characterized by the emergence of a large number of new substances belonging to diverse chemical groups. NPS is a rapidly evolving threat, with the UNODC receiving reports of over 800 NPS in the period between 2009 to 2017. Novel variants of NPS are constantly introduced to the growing market. Coupled with the challenges of developing drug testing protocols and reference standards for NPS, monitoring and detecting NPS remains a continuing challenge, and it is difficult to determine the real extent of NPS abuse and supply. In addition, little is known about the adverse health effects and long-term harms of NPS and this considerably hinders prevention and treatment of NPS abuse. To deal with the challenges, it is crucial for us to develop effective legislations, build capabilities and enhance national, regional and international cooperation against the proliferation of NPS.
I would like to briefly share on how Singapore deals with NPS. Singapore is constantly enhancing our strategy to counter the evolving NPS problem through legislative amendments and targeted enforcement. In 2013, Singapore amended the Misuse of Drug Act (MDA) to introduce the generic listing approach in dealing with NPS. Under this approach, the parent molecular structure and specific substitution patterns to that molecule were listed, and any substance which shares similar chemical structures were classified as controlled drugs. The MDA was also amended to allow for the temporary listing of certain NPS for a period of 12 months or more. This allows for Singapore’s lead drug enforcement agency, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) to seize temporarily listed NPS, so that circulation of such substances can be restricted.
Research and industry consultations are concurrently undertaken to determine if there are any legitimate uses for the substances that have been temporarily listed. Once it is determined that there are no licit uses for the substance, it will be scheduled as controlled drug. The Misuse of Drugs Act currently controls 12 generic groups of NPS and 105 NPS as Class A controlled drugs while 5 NPS are placed on temporary schedule. This list of scheduled NPS is constantly reviewed and expanded.
Singapore has also developed supply strategies to counter NPS. We subscribe to specialised drug information systems developed by countries worldwide in response to the growth in demand and supply of NPS. The information shared through these platforms guide our strategy to deal with new forms of NPS. One other strategy is to improve the tracking of NPS trafficking. CNB regularly conducts targeted operations to swiftly eradicate syndicates involved in manufacture or distribution of NPS products. In terms of detection capabilities, Singapore constantly looks to advance our capability to detect and test for NPS. Singapore’s national forensics laboratory, the Health Science Authority (HSA) uses high-resolution mass spectrometry to differentiate and identify multiple NPS and close drug analogues in seized drug exhibits and urine specimen. Singapore will continue to ensure that there is effective coordination between all our relevant government agencies and industry partners, in our effort to curb the proliferation of NPS.
The 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document calls for Member States to enhance the capacity of law enforcement agencies to detect and identify NPS and promote cross-border operation and information-sharing to inhibit the proliferation of NPS. Singapore welcomes UNODC efforts in the regular sharing of information on new forms of NPS reported by countries and for providing timely recommendations to schedule these NPS. Sharing of cross-border information and exchange of best practices is important in dealing with NPS. Singapore strives to learn from best practices of countries with strong NPS legislation and enforcement. Our national forensics laboratory also regularly communicates with forensic lab counterparts from around the world to exchange information on NPS. Besides sharing of information, it is also pertinent for countries to work with each other to provide for capacity-building in NPS detection. 20 In September 2017, Singapore partnered with UNODC to conduct a joint training programme on NPS. With participants from 11 ASEAN and Pacific Island countries, the programme focused on the global NPS situation and sharing of best practices in establishing effective national coordination mechanisms on NPS detection capabilities between law enforcement and forensic laboratory authorities. 21 To foster capacity-building regionally, CNB together with the Australian Federal Police hosted the 17th run of the Integrated Narcotics Enforcement Programme (INEP) for ASEAN law enforcement agencies in June 2018. This annual programme provides training on supply reduction-related issues, including NPS. Singapore will continue to support such capacity-building programmes at the regional level to address the challenges posed not just by NPS but also by synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine which is a growing concern in the region. We commit to work closely with UNODC and international counterparts to enhance our collective efforts in the fight against drugs. Last, I would like to conclude by reiterating the need to stay vigilant and proactive in tackling emerging threats posed by NPS. The international community should work together to continuously develop targeted response to counter the proliferation of NPS.
EL SALVADOR – In 2009 the el Salvadorian public authorities scheduled a number of substances whether they were an end-product or raw material in line with inter-American and other mechanisms in these spheres. With the auspices of INCB, we gave pre-export notification of controlled substances. This system has facilitated real exchange of pre-export notifications of substances subject to international control between import and export countries.
TANIA RAMIREZ, México Unido Contra la Delincuencia, MEXICO – It is an honour to present before this forum, the results of a new briefing paper called “Medicinal cannabis policies and practices around the world”, elaborated my MUCD and IDPC. It represents an effort to explore this evolving phenomenon and the various forms of legal regulatory regimes on medicinal cannabis currently available. The global debate about cannabis regulation has intensified in recent years, and jurisdictions have increasingly amended their legislation to allow for the medicinal or therapeutic use of the plant. Various countries around the world have enacted policies and laws that enable patients to access certain types of preparations to alleviate symptoms, reduce pain or improve their quality of life. Although all these experiences can be considered as progress, not all regulatory regimes are equal, and not all reforms will have the same impact. All in all, there are a diversity of experiences, approaches and directions and no international or regional standards currently exist.
The existing experiences are diverse and the different processes that led to these policies can be categorized as follows: 1) Individual cases defended in the courts which set precedents, as in Mexico and Canada, 2) Direct democratic processes, like in several US states, 3) Legislative and public policy processes, such as in Uruguay and other US states 4) Companies developing medicinal cannabis, for example in the UK.
The wide range of responses may be economically liberal like in the United States, or profoundly statist in the case of Uruguay. The experiences also differ with regards to defining medicinal use, the types of products considered as medicines, whether cultivation for personal use is allowed, and other definitions. Even in cases of medicinal regulation, other forms of cannabis use remain prohibited, with use only permitted in Uruguay, some US states and, recently, in Canada. Latin America is currently the world leader in the promotion and adoption of policies allowing access to cannabis for therapeutic uses, in countries like Uruguay, Colombia, Jamaica and Brazil. Argentina, Peru and Mexico have also adopted other, less ambitious, regulatory processes.
The United States and Canada may be the most advanced countries in the development of a medicinal cannabis industry. In the United States, 29 states currently have a legislation allowing medicinal cannabis use. In Europe, alongside the Netherlands, the past year has seen the adoption of various medicinal cannabis schemes, in particular in Greece, Poland and Slovenia. In contrast, Asia continues to be at the forefront of repressive drug policies, and medicinal cannabis remains prohibited in many countries. However, there have been positive developments in several countries of the region, such as India and Thailand. Regarding Oceania, there have been significant advances in Australia and New Zealand on this front in recent years. Israel approved the medicinal use of cannabis in 1992 and soon became a centre for scientific research and development of cannabis varieties and industrial products.
Among the country examples, there is a wide range of mechanisms available to ensure access to medicinal cannabis: 1. Special individual licenses to import and use medicinal cannabis, while maintaining overall prohibitions over the plant, (e.g. in Poland). 2. Regulation of supply through the creation of a license system (e.g. in Colombia or Peru). 3. Regulation of demand with mechanisms allowing legal access to medications (e.g. in Uruguay for recreational, and by default, medicinal use). 4. Public policies in compliance with the regulatory system in place for medicines (e.g. in Germany). Mexico represents a particular case. Although the Congress approved reforms in 2017, after a year regulation have not been released by the Ministry of Health and patients cannot access to medicines. It is a good example that a law reform does not always represent an immediately step forward in this subject.
The information available makes possible to outline some recommendations, like allow new medications to reach the market quickly, always ensuring the highest possible standards for consumer health protection, avoid the creation of monopolies, include the patients in decision-making processes and implement campaigns on medicinal cannabis. To conclude, the most important thing regarding the right to health: legalize cannabis for medicinal use and not solely limiting access for a few arbitrarily determined illnesses. It is important to create mechanisms for immediately access – that is, without the need for judicial actions and avoiding also the high costs that individual importation of such medication would involve. The health of millions of people around the world requires to take immediate action.
MARTIN HORTON-EDDISON, Global Drug Policy Observatory, UK – Crypto-Drug Markets (CDMs), also referred to as Darknet. Drug Markets are anonymised internet sites which facilitate the sale and purchase of narcotic substances both domestically and internationally. This statement offers a strategic assessment of the evolving CDM Law Enforcement landscape, and some thoughts on the future direction of CDMs and CDM enforcement.
In the recent past, the standard law enforcement strategy has been one of site takedown, aimed at arresting CDM administrators, and eliminating site servers with the sole purpose of taking the CDM offline. On the face of it, the site takedown strategy, as applied to the original Silk Road and its immediate successors, seemed a logical response – forcing sites simply to cease to exist. Although CDMs represent a novel threat, takedown may be usefully described as conventional: utilising existing law enforcement force-structures, general agents and agencies, and often unilateral approaches in order to attack the CDMs’ Centre of Gravity; to takedown the hub on which everything depends. However, despite numerous high-profile historic takedowns, CDMs continue to exist – with new sites emerging or increasing their capacity to facilitate the online trade just as quickly as their predecessors can be taken down. To illustrate the point: the value of CDM drug transactions rose by 50% in the two years following the takedown of Silk Road in 2013. As can be seen by the slide, even by the UNODC’s own assessment therefore, takedown simply doesn’t appear to work.
The survivability and continued proliferation of Crypto-Drug Markets appears to depend on assurance of several key trust areas: trust in the market, trust between vendors/ buyers, trust in the payment systems and currency, trust in the assurance of anonymity, and trust in delivery services. The evidence indicates that takedown may provoke the adoption of new technologies, increase public awareness – and therefore usage – of CDMs, and does little to undermine trust in many of the specific areas mentioned.
Since 2017, domestic and international law enforcement appear to be adapting their approach, moving toward enforcement strategies which prioritise less conventional means. Law enforcement operations in 2017 and 2018 have displayed a more nuanced and sophisticated approach. Although operations are still managed by conventional law enforcement agencies, the strategic onus appears to be shifting toward the deployment of multiple specialist enforcement agencies, specialised agents, and complex joint international operations between multiple state partners. For example, the 2017 multilateral takedown of AlphaBay occurred only after law enforcement had taken control of Hansa Market as a honeypot – a tactical step ahead of the markets’ users.
This evolved strategy more closely targets our earlier essential elements of trust in – and function of – CDMs: 1) trust in the market; may be undermined if it is possible that the market is being operated by law enforcement, 2) trust between vendors/buyers; may be undermined if it is possible that either is a law enforcement agent, 3) trust in the payment systems and currency; may be undermined if currency exchanges might be being operated by law enforcement, 4) trust in anonymity; may be undermined if law enforcement can infiltrate the site to access communications between buyer and vendor and 5) trust in delivery; may be undermined if postal services are working closely with law enforcement to intercept deliveries.
Many of these elements are addressed by the evolving law enforcement strategy. The deployment of the United States Postal Inspection Service to intercept packages, the Netherlands’ National High-Tech Crime Unit to actually operate live CDMs, US agents posing as money launderers for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and private companies such as Bitdefender providing unprecedented access to servers. Each provide clear examples of the strategic shift away from conventional takedown and toward an evolved approach. Strategically speaking, we might usefully characterise the increased involvement of ancillary agencies and the deployment of smaller specialised and more nimble teams with specialised roles as something akin to a form of counter insurgency operation – using small force units with specialist skills, embedded in the ‘local population’, and sanctioned by sophisticated international alliances. A consequence of the evolved approach is that many of those points of trust as discussed earlier are more effectively undermined when compared to conventional takedown.
In response to law enforcement operations and other factors, CDMs are technologically adaptive. Tomorrow’s CDMs appear likely to be both decentralised (i.e. having no central administration – and geographically distributed – with no central servers). These developments will render takedown completely obsolete. Law enforcement strategy will have to continue to innovate in order to keep pace with these developments, becoming increasingly more specialised, time consuming, and expensive in turn. There may therefore be a need to balance the increasing expenditure against likely harm, for example considering market management approaches over purely punitive enforcement, as we are increasingly seeing in offline policy shifts around the world. Efforts such as targeting only the most pernicious of vendors -rather than whole CDM sphere- may be one efficient strategy, allowing policy makers to more effectively balance the need to influence serious negative behaviour, with a nuanced awareness of the potential for CDMs to reduce both personal and social harm.
HERMAN EBSTEIN, UNODC: In regard to the 60CND resolution 60/1 (i.e. on strengthening the existing data collection tools and on MS capacity building) in the end of 2017 there were some consultations with MS, international and regional organisations and civil society in order to get information and feedback from these actors regarding these 2 lines of work. At the beginning of 2018 an expert group meeting was held in Vienna, – experts in use and the production of drug statistics. The goals of the meeting was to review the capacity of MS to collect and report drug related data, to discuss quality and relevance of data being collected through the current tools. On the outcome recommendations first was to improve coordination and monitoring at the national level in particular the implementation of national observatories was implemented to increase and facilitate interagency cooperation as well as to facilitate evidence-based policy evaluation and development. In addition, the need for methodological guidelines in particular the need for standardised and more precise definition of some of the indicators and also to develop guidelines on how to identify appropriate data sources for each of these indicators. More, the establishment of peer networks at international and regional level was suggested.
Through these peer networks countries could share their best practices and provide peer support and this would ideally result in more comparable and consistent data at international level. On improving the ARQ, one of the main recommendations was to explore the implementation of a modular approach, including core and non-core modules that could rotate in years.
Another recommendation was to collect information on emerging topics such as NPS and gender, -to utilise the focal point structure of the country level in order to increase internal coordination within the country while keeping a better communication between MS and UNODC and other organisations in general. Also, on improving the data collection and definitions, currently in the ARQ data is being collected through open-end questions which makes it harder to interpret therefore it would be more beneficial sometimes if there were more structured questions, as well as the availability of guidelines for the ARQ in a specific stand-alone document.
With regards to interagency cooperation, MS are burdened with having to fill up a lot of questionnaires from different organisations and in some occasions, there is a lot overlapping between these questionnaires so there should be better communication to avoid duplication of efforts and reduce the burden.
Recently we have received funding from the EU which will allow us to continue with this work by: 1) implementing the foregoing recommendations, 2) carrying consultations with international organisations to further improve coordination and data collection, 3) conducting a pilot study on an improved questionnaire, 4) holding another expert group meeting (EGM) in July 2019 on the content of the programme in regards to capacity building, -we wish to see a balanced representation from MS, 5) presenting our final results no later than 63rd CND.
PAKISTAN – In regard to improving quality and data statistics within the context of ARQ we think it’s extremely important that the setting of drug expert meetings should remain inclusive with experts from all Capitals to provide feedback so the improved ARQ would the address needs of today and tomorrow. Also, CND and MS should be having frank discussions: post 2019 the work should be guided by collective contained in the 2009 Document and 2014 and then UNGASS. What exactly does it mean for the world the work you are doing? How does this guidance translate into an improving ARQ? Similarly, post 2019 we should better have a single -integrated- drug follow-up. However, in this exercise of improving the ARQ we should not lose sight of the persistent challenges. Last, as discussed, many times, response rate to the ARQ is something that needs to be improved so our point is that this whole exercise should remain holistic.
US – In regard to avoiding duplication on our data collection efforts, and in relation to the data collection efforts that are on the way for the ARQ under the CND context and the ones that are on the way under the SDG context, what coordination there is between the two efforts and is there any duplication that is being/ can be avoided?
ANGELA ME – The idea of streamlining the data collection tools that we have is to address the response rate. A current issue is that the ARQ is too large, especially for some MS that have too little to report; these should also give the chance to do so. In the same sense the regional and international networks are meant to increase the responsiveness of the ARQ. In regard to not losing sight of the persistent challenges we definitely keep these main indicators in; they haven’t become obsolete.
From our perspective, UNODC can only emphasise but actually the CND has the prerogative to decide on the priorities for the implementation of 2009 and UNGASS documents and for the EGM to decide how. It would be very much helpful to have this “what” specified for our technical work to be done on the “how”.
In regard to the duplication, we focus on jointly reporting between WHO and UNODC on EAG meetings. Another point we are working on interagency communication to bring together what we have and avoid duplication.
LUL ADMASACHEW, Higher Education Leadership, ETHIOPIA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NHhiyNlGa0&feature=youtu.be
GRETCHEN BURNS BERGMAN, Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing, US:
CHAIR: That is the end of our today’s plan. We will continue tomorrow with our thematic debate on supply reduction once we finish our panel on debate alternative development. Thank you all.