First round of thematic sessions on the implementation of all international drug policy commitments following up to the 2019 Ministerial Declaration
Theme addressed: ‘…that both the range of drugs and drugs markets are expanding and diversifying…’.
INCB [Introduction of the work of INCB] … no crimes should be committed in the name of drug control.
Chair: Now we will proceed with our Agenda of the Thematic Session. The challenge we discuss today will be introduced with a presentation by UNODC then we will proceed with our panel discussion. On Friday, the commission will be briefed on the progress made towards strengthening and streamlining our ARQ. There will also a be a guided tour to the newly refurbished UNODC laboratory on Friday afternoon (pre-registration needed).
UNODC (Division for Treaty Affairs Director John Brandolino): We are pleased that we decided to continue with these thematic sessions as these are great opportunities for us to implement our international commitments and engage with each other and experts. We will hear about how drug markets have been expanding and diversifying with contributions from EMCDDA, UN Statistical Committee, Laboratory and Scientific Section, the Health Branch – among others.
UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch (Angela Me): It is no secret that everything is on a rise, so let’s start reflecting on the why and the complexity of this growth on the drug market. The characteristics of this problem is different in each country and region so I will give you a taste.
The global opium production has been on the rise, but compared to the growth of the population, we can lament if there is a connection – the production has been growing more, so on average there is more opium in the world per person. Same can be said for cocaine and drug use in general. In relation to particularly cocaine and opium, the capacity of law enforcement also improved so there is a growth in seizures – this does not compensate for production still. I don’t have definite answers to why, but we think partly the growth of population and increase of organisation. Some of the epidemics are not an urban phenomenon as we are used to see in trends to be the typical case. There is also a pattern of affluent population where there are more people who can afford drugs than before. I would also like to mention the complexity of the market; the number of NPS is increasing, they are more diverse, we are not dealing with markets in its traditional meaning. Very few established markets are seen, but NPS are often used in combination with other substances so it is difficult to understand this completely and also the harm. If Russia would allow me to demonstrate how the market has been changing – the Asian market’s primary challenge used to be heroin, but in the last few years we see individual seizures of synthetic drugs to be on the rise; in some cases it has overtaken the market even. The data from Russia shows that more people are in treatment for synthetic drugs as well while people in treatment because of heroin has been decreasing. Different health responses are needed but the same can be said for law enforcement. An other example for poly-drug use is Australia; here the big thing is risky drinking. Drug users are not mono-thematic and all substances that are on the market are used.
In Europe, we see a growing trend in drug-related deaths among the elder population. This is also an issue we called on in the last World Drug Report, so again, it is useful to start looking at different perspectives on drug use.
In terms of drug trafficking, keeping in mind the capacity of countries to interject drugs, there is an increase of supply in the market which means more laboratories – they are also moving towards countries to manufacture where there is more gap.
Also, we noticed that the data of patients admitted for treatment have differences in the choice of substance and during time, it changed differently too. North-America and North Africa, part of Asia share the challenge of non-medical use of opioids. The perception of the substances is different however: in some parts the epidemic spread quickly because people considered it a medicine and not something harmful. In North-America the high accessibility whilst in Africa the too little availability is an issue. So, every region has its own challenges, you can see in the data that their major concerns relate to different substances.
Cannabis affects all countries in the World, it is the most used everywhere but the intensity is different, In the Western World, it is much more wide-spread. This demonstrates the magnitude of the market – North America is the biggest market we have ever seen. The drug policy debates started to mention the concept of a “genius” inside a magic lamp and it is difficult to put it back […] We have to think of the business sector as well – their objectives are guided by money and not centred around public health. “Big Money” is in heavy users, so businesses are motivated to increase the use- it is a big challenge. I want to show you some tobacco advertisements from the beginning of the century [asthma cigarettes, smoking for breathing better] – just to consider the expanding private sector that pushes a certain message.
Afghanistan: The amount of opium produced is less than 100 years ago. Other trends are worrying. Two perspectives exists: one-drug problem is supply driven; two- as long as there is demand there will be supply. Which one do you think prevails?
Don’t you think there is something wrong from the big perspective and technical point of view with all the growth in production – don’t you think a special interest is present in this? The global stage is not only about Cannabis and despite successes, we are failing.
Germany: Have you also knowledge about the correlation between preventive measures and consumption? Does prevention work?
Angela Me: Challenging questions. To Afghanistan: depends on who you ask If you ask law enforcement, they think it is more driven by supply. Supply is changing demand sure, we have seen examples of the opposite too. Cocaine went down significantly 6-7 years ago because of the change in supply. Looking at demand is more complex, because it is much slower, it doesn’t change drastically over a few years.
From my perspective, it is important to look at the reasons as to why we are where we are but we also have to accept how it is and then respond with moving forward as a goal.
In terms of prevention, my colleagues will be more knowledgeable. Thinking about tobacco, the prevention was successful. On cannabis, we probably need to think about this.
INCB: We found success in relation to Cannabis in prevention initiative. Why people are using more though – I think we have to look at reducing inequalities. People from affluent families are protected, but they are experimenting more in adolescence while not developing disorders. College students are using marijuana […] other risky behaviour is influenced by parenting.
UK: You mentioned supply is changing demand and one thing we’ve seen in UK is the increasing crack cocaine use. So dealers of heroin started to stock crack as well and offer them with a purchase at a reduced price or for free. Have you seen similar marketing techniques?
Russia: What degree does the legalisation of Cannabis in certain regions lead to a broadening number of users and it’s presence on the markets?
Portugal: The use of cannabis sometimes opens the door to using other psychoactive substances. What about other substances like alcohol or tobacco? It is true there is more of an informed use of tobacco – as your example. Are we narrowing our scope to Cannabis where there is other addictive behaviour? Alcohol addiction, sweets companies’ push marketing, etc…
Angela Me: I am not aware of data on peculiar drug supply techniques. We will look into it but this is a great example of the supply driven market change.
Regarding the change in cannabis regulation; after legalisation, the patterns didn’t change dramatically – the law changes happen in response to an already large market. Accessibility was wide, so the “genius” was already out. Changes are visible in the number of frequent users. The use of Cannabis and alcohol: I ask my colleagues to reflect on this. I understand your comment: why should we stigmatise the use of Cannabis if there are other harmful substances. Yes, we know alcohol and tobacco kills a lot more people than Cannabis. Cannabis is not causing drug-related deaths much, but impacted behaviour, I hand over to Gilberto.
UNODC Prevention and Health Branch (Gilberto): The “gateway drug” idea has been debunked. We cannot continue to focus on single drugs, it is about persons and their vulnerability. When you have a child who has problematic use of whatever substances, they share one thing: some kind of suffering. Many children have an unsafe or emotionally unsupportive family background. You heard of people injecting for enjoyment, this is not typically the case – these people are dealing with trauma. We have to raise children so they are able to say no to drugs.
Nigeria: Angela Me mentioned the affluent are more likely to abuse drugs. I would like to refer to the Nigerian drug survey: expensive drugs are used by the affluent, but we have a crisis in places where there is ongoing insecurity, children out of school with easy access to Tramadol and Codeine, glue, etc… This is also an area we need to look into in terms of prevention.
Spain: I would like to point out one terminology issue. We should be very precise with presentations of such high calibre. I thought I saw “illicit drug users” on one of the slides. Illicit refers to drugs, not a person. It was an interesting presentation but we should be careful about the words we use.
China: In North-America you don’t see a market expansion, is there any evaluating on the impact of legalisation across regions? We talked about tobacco and alcohol, have we considered regulating Cannabis the same way?
Iran: A number of dismantled methamphetamine labs have been decreased, could you share the reasons you noticed behind this? Production of opioids has also decreased but is this the net volume; what factors have you weighed in?
Senegal: We talk a lot about Cannabis – I remember studies shedding light on a molecule that is naturally in the brain and helps combating Cannabis addiction. There is still no medication along this line, is there an update on this? Similar to methadone-heroin, is there anything on cocaine?
Angela Me: I really appreciate the Nigerian comment, there is a link of wealth and certain types. I apologise for the language on the slide, I will correct. To China, there is research on various types of regulations and how they affect populations and impacts – between full legalisation and full control, there are many models and ways of regulating. There is not a definitive comparative research that says which is better because it is also depending on the situation. The impact of legalisation on some of the states doesn’t show a big change but if you apply the same change, it could be very different somewhere else. It is difficult to answer your question globally. There is research that considers Cannabis regulation the same as alcohol and tobacco, but I am not in a position to discuss this right now, I don’t have the results in front of me. As for Iran, seizure went up, price is very low.
UNODC DPHB: No one should be punished, particularly young adults, for small amounts. There are a number of alternatives allowed by the conventions. Prison for a child increases their suffering; it will not solve the situation. We have now published a volume about treatment for stimulants users. There are some medications that could be interesting. Sustained release pills are manufactured for cocaine and methamphetamine. This is a way to maintain the coverage of receptors, we are waiting for help from WHO and the National Institute of Health in the US to have a sort of legitimisation for these medications.
Singapore: There is an expansion of the global drug market, the characteristics are different so there is no one-size fits all. In most cases, the genie is indeed outside the bottle. The good news in terms of opium: are there any lessons we can learn from this success? In terms of market expansion, can regulation keep up with the change?
Argentina: Having more data is useful for many countries and international cooperation. There had been a revolution in terms of statistics- states are taking measures. Increased cooperation … ?
Angela Me: The lessons require a big discussion, but the most important one is that it can be reduced. The way substances are put under control could be done differently and we can start a new conversation to understand history. The impact of the new information, if I understand the question of Argentina correctly, means we understand more and also the numbers are growing because we have more surveys. The impact of new information is also interesting: early warning systems are important because the market is changing faster than we put our surveys out. I am optimistic that regulation has kept new substances contained.
Chair: Now we proceed with our panellists.
CNU (Frederico Manotti, Italy): In Italy it is customary for police to give some title to the investigation itself, for this “Atrabaz Investigation” is chosen. Our investigation dealt with trafficking and dealt with delayed seizures of narcotics and controlled delivery to the Netherlands. It was a positive collaboration of several European countries and Eurojust and EIO. Our subject was an import of 268 kg of heroin of 64% purity run by an organised transnational criminal group. The drugs were hidden in large bags containing bentonite (used in constructions). The container has been unloaded in Genoa port from Bandar Abbas in Iran. The goods were formally destined to be delivered to the Czech Republic. The ship stopped in Hamburg and Valencia, but the container was kept on board until Genoa. We try to bring the perpetrators to justice, not just intercept the deal. We intercepted the telephone calls of an ordinary shipping company that was supposed to receive the goods and identified key persons and the destination. We collaborated among various judicial authorities and police forces in Italy, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Eurojust… I requested the seizure of phones and that the arrest only happens after the transaction through EIO. We tailed the truck, the lorry driver was unaware of the crime as we found out later, we had no certainty about the route. The car went through France, Belgium and Netherlands and headed trough an industrial building on the outskirts of Roosendaal. We followed the driver taking advantage of the Schengen agreement. We should have issued EIO for each single state, but we think there should be an accumulative issue. The Dutch police arrested the two subjects waiting for the heroin. They had a car with a Romanian and one with a Bulgarian license plate to further deliver the shipment. One of the subjects was a Turkish citizen who has already served time for 83 kilos of heroin in Italy. Three judicial authorities were involved at this point and the intervention of Eurojust was decisive as they arranged the meetings and managed resource sharing and cooperation. Thank you.
Chair: floor open for comments
Russia: Thank you for the many details. When you have trans-border crime, how do you define jurisdiction at the end of the day? How do you have the exchange of material and written proof? What database do you use for drug-related crimes in the EU?
Manotti (CNU): Indeed it is a transnational crime, we immediately assumed that such huge quantities must be run by a transnational organization which had to involve at least two countries – where the ship had set sail and where it was received. In Genoa, we started our investigation and started criminal proceedings there and of the associated crimes and associated persons. The proceedings in the Netherlands, it was import and purchase, European Court criticised this so we came to an agreement about the trial. Through EIO we exchanged requests, documents, data and materials. The European database is not managed by us but by Eurojust so I cant answer that question.
NGO: lack of sufficient data – markets are growing faster than governments. It is evident effective action is not taken. Many speakers touched on types of market regulation, we think we shouldn’t talk about this type of idea, we should think outside the box that allows us to bring the markets outside of the criminal flow. We have to move forward with our understanding and work together with stakeholders.
Mexico: My delegation has been vocal to focus on the level of implementation of our political commitments of the past years. We consider that because of the clear time-frame, we can distinguish two types of commitments- 2019 target and ongoing ones. The vast majority are of an ongoing nature, it is imperative to look at their effect on our collective efforts. By the mid-term review, we need to have reviewed which are working well and which needs to be revisited.
The range of drugs, the soft paragraph of 2009 is the only one referencing the use of data. Systematically integrating such data into investigation and monitoring. This has to be undertaken by the states, UNODC, WHO and ICNB. How do you systematically use forensic and scientific treatment center data to better understand the situation? Given the range of synthetic drugs is infinite, add home-made drugs, would you consider the current system of scheduling drugs is sufficient? On the issue of markets, we identified only a few commitments (in 2009) which requires the strengthening of efforts. In another paragraph, it calls for states to cope with the multiple challenges especially in the view of NPS emergence and amphetamine-type stimulants involving the prohibition of technical equipment. If we loosen our understanding of “range of drugs” to also include those addressing patterns and challenges, we can identify new commitments regarding routes and means of trafficking. I will not cite all commitments, but some examples would be “ensuring law enforcement adapt to the changing nature of the trafficking problem…”, 2014: “need to respond to shifting routes and new technology….”, in 2016: “monitor current trends and routes, share best practices […] to prevent the diversion of international trade […]”. The commitments in 2014 have already been fulfilled with the meeting organised a few weeks ago by INCB so we should start developing concrete measures. A mid-term review could head into that direction. Others have not been fulfilled, such as “seek agreement on a set of relevant indicators […] common assessment of demand reduction measures” and “standardised data collection” and ARQ lessons learned and enhanced data collection. “Through CND in coordination with Statistics Committee set clear and measurable indicators of supply reduction” – this has not been done yet. During 2019 negotiations, we prioritised this and I am happy to report that Mexican experts are actively engaged in the new ARQ development and piloting. It is imperative to have a system for due follow-up to have a productive mid-term review.
Jamaica: The 2019 World Drug Report illustrates the pervasive issues of the expansion and diversification of the range and markets of drugs. In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in new synthetic psychoactive substances mimicking controlled drugs. The global illicit manufacture of cocaine has reached a record level. Our country faces significant obstacles. Monitoring maritime and other spaces, our geographical location between producer and consumer markets, limited training and capacity building. Notwithstanding, we take commitments seriously, including the 2019 Ministerial Declaration. The purpose of this exercise is to take stock and to chart a way forward. The international community has made strides in this sense. There remains much more to be accomplished. Greater balance between decreasing supply and access to drugs. For far too long, discourse focused on law enforcement and interdiction, ignoring causes of abuse and dependency, as well as the obstacles to access to medicines, such as cannabis, which ought to be available for medical and scientific purposes. A people-centred approach is needed. Interventions should be based on public health, human rights, right of freedom of religion…to ensure the achievement of the SDGs is not eroded and that no one is left behind.
Chloe Carpentier, UNODC: What is wastewater analysis? Analysis of metabolites of substances found in wastewater after being consumed. This technique is rather new, developed over the last decade. Most countries applying it are in Europe, but we have other countries, like Australia, where more than half of the population is covered. Large coverage in China and other countries and regions (Africa and the Americas). A few examples of the technique: first, large increases in coca bush cultivation and cocaine manufacturing starting in 2013. A few years back, we started looking at the impact of the increased production in the main consumer markets (West and Central Europe and North America). It was clear that after a long-term decline, there had been an increase in the cocaine market, suggesting an expansion. In Europe, a mixed picture: Seizures increased in 2015, but prevalence remained stable. We looked at the wastewater analysis and we could show that there may be an increase in consumption. One year later, with more data, we observed increased seizures but, once more, no data on prevalence showing the same. But wastewater shows an expansion of the market by 70%. Another example, distinguishing between substances and levels of use. In terms of the prevalence data on methamphetamine and amphetamine. When we look at seizure data, we see most of the amphetamines are amphetamines, not methamphetamine. So we wanted to see if it’s the case in terms of consumption. Wastewater analysis confirms this and identifies where methamphetamine is concentrated (Central Europe, as opposed to amphetamine). Finally, about the methamphetamine market in South-East Asia: decline in seizures in China and increase in Thailand. In terms of laboratories dismantled, both for methamphetamine tables and crystal, we see a decline. What is happening? Is there a change in the market of methamphetamine? Is there displacement? Changes in priorities of law enforcement? We look at wastewater analysis and, from an analysis of a typical town in China, we see that after 2016 there is a decline in consumption of methamphetamine in China and increase in Thailand. So it suggests there is a shrinking market in China and displacement; and that price is increasing (which suggests law enforcement pressure is increasing). Another example when it comes to cocaine, to characterise the use and how prevalence data can be misleading, or we need to be cautious with this data and complement it. In Australia, high prevalence of cocaine use in the last year at global level reported. When we look at the consumption, coming from wastewater analysis, Australia is far from being one of the highest consumers per person. Two times to four times less than countries in Western Europe and North America. There might be a higher amount of people using now, but amounts used are not as high. And this is confirmed by no significant increases in treatment demand. The price is high, so it might be a factor in reducing the frequency / amount of drug used. Wastewater analysis is an objective method (no reporting bias compared to population studies), it’s timely (because it relies on water treatment system) , and very cost effective. The methodology can be adapted to different countries. It allows cross-country comparisons. But there are some challenges: extrapolation is complex and there needs to be more research (particularly on cannabis), and it’s not particularly accurate for opiates (difficulty in distinguishing licit and illicit use).
Canada: We recently piloted wastewater analysis and the statistics suggest differences in popularity of substances in different cities. Is this particular technique that UNODC is using expensive compared to others? Will UNODC offer technical capacity building on this technique to countries? In terms of other spin-off benefits of this data on drug policy, what would be some of these?
Russia: We thank you for this detailed and interesting presentation. Very briefly. These technologies, wastewater analysis, can they be used in countries that have a less developed system of water supply?
Chloe Carpentier, UNODC: It is not an expensive technique in relative terms. It’s about taking samples from the wastewater system. The challenge are the models of extrapolation. At the moment, we do not organise capacity-building on these techniques. But a number of organisations are developing these methods at regional level and we believe they might have some capacity in this sense. In terms of policy analysis, in a number of situations, wastewater can provide clearer insights into the dynamics of the market. Usually, we estimate the number of users and multiply per capita. But this is not perfectly reliable. Wastewater analysis is more accurate in this sense, and can be cross-referenced with other data.
Wastewater expert, UNODC: As long as people go to toilets that are connected to water treatment systems, the technique works. As long as you don’t live in the jungle, it works. It allows localised analysis too (in schools, in prisons). Extremely powerful and rather cheap compared to other measurements.
EMCDDA: […] globalization and technical developments are a key challenge. We see darknet, social media and encryption changing the face of the European market. Our findings are dealt with in depth in the forthcoming report – a joint analysis of ENCDDA, Europan and will be launched at the end of November.
Turkey: We observed the increase of markets in our region as well, northern routes: heroin precursors; amphetamines. In order to respond more effectively, we established a working group. Several hundred substances were put under review, control and are being continuously assessed. Turkish police makes all possible efforts to prevent technology to enable drug markets, eg. digital currencies strengthened the link between international organised crime.
Afghanistan: Would you please elaborate on the fentanyl market in Europe?
EMCDDA: Indeed we are monitoring a number of substances from the fentanyl family – it is a growing concern. These are highly potent substances linked to the growing number of opioid deaths. Just in 2017 we have data of 9000 drug related deaths mostly related to heroin and synthetic opioids. We have in place the European early warning system to support our MS.
USA: Do you see a number of designer precursors related to fentanyl? Do you see trends in the manufacturing of MDMA?
EMCDDA: In regards to MDMA, our data suggests that Europe is a growing producer for the global market. The online MDMA market has a special feature, typically mid-level or generally higher volume purchases are made. There is clear evidence of European produced MDMA is highly sought after.
Senegal: [MDMA and ecstasy]
EMCDDA: There are a number of events reported to us regarding the use of MDMA – the content of MDMA in ecstasy tablets is increasing while we see a reduction of tablets containing below 100mg of MDMA. The third of ecstasy tablets used to have less than 100 a few years ago.
Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, CICAD (video message): The Executive Secretary assists MS in capacity building and in-depth research. In march, we published a report that is available at www.cicad.oas.org. The data is based on submissions by our members and highlights these facts: drugs use is appearing at a younger age, increase of cocaine use, traditional drugs are consumed but NPS use continues to grow, females are using at the same or higher rates as males, opioid abuse – fentanyl. Plant based drugs: expansion coca and poppy cultivation lead to higher levels of production. The darknet and deep web provides ideal conditions for dealers. Most member states lack capacity or adequate training to handle challenges. Micro trafficking is expanding in major cities and affects overall public security. Regional cooperation and coordination is key + with UNODC.
Chair: Three video messages will now be presented: UNODC regional representatives East Africa, Central Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific.
East Africa: 7700 tons of raw opium are mentioned in the World Drug Report. 3 tons of this is opium and a lot are coming to our coasts. The Red Sea will be accessed in the next 24 months we expect. This trafficking is affecting us dramatically even though a number of countries have taken steps. A lot more needs to be done in an integrated way. Synthetics and Tramadol are becoming an issue. The inter-linkages between terrorism and drugs: 21-23% of activities are financed by heroin. We have to have an integrated approach where law enforcement is stronger at borders and airports. Health: we focalise on harm reduction and assisting clients as well as prevention at an early stage. Drug networks recruit via the internet. The inter-connectivity of terrorist groups must be stopped by cutting their funding via block-chain, cash and heroin.
Central Asia: Nearly 20 tons of marijuana was seized last year and an other half a ton of heroin – while opioid seizures have decreased in our region. This just means traffickers are finding new routes. More than 50 NPS have emerged in the last year. Poly drug use is common. Given our location, it is key that we strengthen our national capacities and that we foster cooperation.
SEAP: There has been a profile change in the recent years, particularly methamphetamine has been increasing by far. Substantial quantities are being trafficked inside the region. We are estimated to be worth over 60 million dollars, multiple of what it was few years ago. We are also the most likely source of many NPS. Urgent action is needed to suppress illicit flows. UNODC in Myanmar held a conference on precursors to move forward plans for a regional precursor strategy. UNODC initiated a program to support the implementation UNODC integrated opioid strategy.
Canada: With the diversifying range of drugs and markets, our experience is as follows. We observed NPS coming up consistently for the past 10 years. We know some are reported and scheduled quick. We adapt a proactive approach when determining classes. In recent years, we scheduled a number of substances based on scientific assessment. The proper review is conducted according to our scheduling acts. The government has a national laboratory to detect what is coming in and out of the country. We firmly believe policies must be informed by high quality data and the latest evidence. Some data shows the increased use of the darknet which would mean widened access. We suspect the risk of hepatitis and HIV is connected to the route of consumption of NPS.
EU: We all share the understanding that the markets are expanding and diversifying. Drug markets continue to be the most profitable activities of organised crime groups. It threats many areas of our nations. Complexity increases and groups involved become interconnected. Technological developments provide new opportunities which leads us to believe we need more investment to keep up with the changing times. New ways of preventing and responding to drug use, including harm reduction, are known. A wide range of interventions are also available online – we must be forward looking. We must evolve in our data collection and analysis. We collect relevant and reliable data within the EU and we welcome the work on improving the ARQ. The tools we already have at our disposal, 1988 convention provides pointers for trafficking and cooperation, the protocols provide a broad framework for addressing trafficking, the instruments such as criminal justice conventions at an EU level are in place. We will publish our drug markets report in the next few weeks. All our data indicates availability is growing – supply interacts with demand so EU and MS support and integrated response. Efforts to achieve SDGs and drug control efforts go hand in hand. We should reinforce our cooperation, UNGASS outcome document represents the most comprehensive operational suggestions for solving the World Drug Problem.
Russia: The global community is faced with new facets, including the boom of NPS that don’t fall under international control and highly potent synthetics as well as the darknet, drug dependency among children. Long standing challenges regarding illegal cultivation remain. Solution requires joint efforts. Some states efforts to address the World Drug Problem are producing notable results, specifically according to the 2019 report, there was a significant drop in trafficking from Afghanistan which was possible thanks to coordinated law enforcement efforts in the region, chief among them CSTO and the Shanghai Coordination. This year, SCTO already carried out 3 operations. Operation Spiderweb targeted organised crime, operation Thunder took advantage of aerial vehicles with the help of UNODC. We have to better implement state of the art technologies to tackle trafficking rather than addressing the effect. Despite the increased narcotic drugs challenge, we have at our disposal the 3 UN drug conventions and 2019 Ministerial Declaration as tools.
Morocco: In recent years, trends related to trafficking have changed in our region which has led us to adopt novel approaches. We equipped ourselves with a multi-dimensional strategy that is fully in line with international standards and human rights, it follows the conventions and the 2009-2016-2019 documents. Our national strategy allows an intra-institutional approach and builds trust. In the health sphere, we adopted awareness programmes as well as treatment and care centres. For 2020-2025 we set to implement treatment strategies such as substitution therapy. Interventions for injecting users to protect them from infections have been put in place. Cannabis cultivation has reduced; we control borders and roads with sophisticated equipment. We dismantled numerous criminal organisations and our efforts are reflected in the sharing of data and good practices. Given the current insecure and unstable context, we draw attention to the fact that Africa is a transition region and increasingly a target. We are a central trafficking platform particularly cocaine and heroin. We must also pay attention to the increase of narcotic plants cultivation in certain regions. To date there has been no quantification made. The global drug problem remains a shared responsibility and can only be tackled by goal-oriented outcome focused actions, free from ideological motivations.
Venezuela: We have not all contributed equally to tackle the issues. We are not a manufacturing or producing country, we are a victim of one of the largest cocaine networks and so the largest cocaine consuming communities are in our country. Nationally, we have seen a high number of seizures and laboratory dismantles – these are sometimes part of complexes that are mainly operated out of Colombia. From January to October, 30,700 operations have been carried out and we destroyed facilities, seized tons of illegal substances and detained over 100 individuals. We think it to be wise to place emphasis on international cooperation as part of the 2019 declaration. We firmly believe in multilateralism and as such we appeal to the further strengthening of this body and reject any discrimination towards any member state.
UNODC Implementation Support Branch: There are a lot of interesting information prevailing in our discussions. The subsidiary bodies of CND proved to be extremely useful. You already heard about new routes but just to remind you, there were only a few parts of the African continent affected, now the entire Eastern part is. An other alarming factor is increasing turnover of synthetics. It is hard to follow and counter them. Almost 90% of cargo in the world is in containers which affects illicit drug trafficking – it means not only by sea. You will hear a lot of cases of ripon and ripoff. The cases of misdeclaration is increasing. There is increasing cases of hiding inside the structures of vehicles and bodies plus a new development is small commercial aviation and drones. Parcels – DHL hub discovers illegal packages 500/day. You can imagine they don’t have the capacity or manpower to deal with all of that. The same goes for airports or seaports. The shift towards decentralised models could have been observed too. There are professionalisation, counter-surveillance, interception of law enforcement communication. Consequences of these changes: more investigation is needed; complex investigations; more resources; exchange of intelligence; special operations; undercover and infiltration; better inter-agency cooperation and networking the network. We can already report some success for example working together with Ecuador and Spain, Colombia and Belgium. We have revitalised more than 18 cases. My staff is facilitating a similar exchange between Uzbekistan and Thailand this week.
Simone Haysom, Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime: Heroin markets and other drug markets in Eastern and Southern Africa: Our research into the heroin economy looks at how this international trade enters and leaves a regional economy and generates very specific local impacts. In recent years, the volume of heroin shipped from Afghanistan along a network of routes in East and southern Africa appears to have increased considerably. Most of this heroin is destined for Western markets, but there is a large spin-off trade for local consumption. Africa is now experiencing the sharpest increase in heroin use worldwide and a spectrum of criminal networks and political elites in East and southern Africa are substantially enmeshed in the trade. The transit of heroin had shaped and been shaped by high-level governance dynamics, and the criminal governance of illicit markets mirrors the dynamics of political competition and rule. In addition to this high-level corruption, the heroin transit route has developed large local markets. These local markets have grown consistently for two decades, but with key “surge” periods, and they are having acute effects on prospects for development. The reason this market has become so important is because the heroin trade has found ways to align with three key socio-political trends that are occurring at the same time: Trend 1. Urbanisation : Huge urban concentrations provide the markets for drugs, and the spaces where criminal governance can prosper. Africa’s urban population is the fastest growing in the world. Urbanisation in Southern and Eastern African countries is expected to increase by 74.3 and 43.6 percent by 2050 respectively. Five of the top 20 fast-growing cities are in East Africa. This includes Kampala, Uganda (expected to grow by 99.5%); followed by Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (85.2%); Kigali, Rwanda (79.9%); Mombasa, Kenya (79%); and Nairobi, Kenya (77.3%). The expansion of the heroin market throws into the relief the failures of formal urbanisation – it has flourished in the informal economy, particularly in informal waste and recycling economies, and in abandoned spaces, and amongst the unemployed, irregular migrants, and the homeless. Heroin, in particular, appears to greatly accelerate the growth of the informal, at the expense of the formal: petty theft and other taboo behaviours that often accompany dependent use affect community trust and often scare people from the spaces where users reside (who are themselves hiding from the police), and generate subcultures that are marginalised and criminalised. 2. Challenges of local governance: The region is currently undergoing profound challenges to governance at a level, which is the coalface between the state and its citizens. These challenges have many dimensions but the corruption nature of illegal drug markets and gang formation but seen as key phenomenon. The cash-based nature of illegal drug markets makes them highly corruption of police at a local level, and because drug dealers need protection at a level that corresponds to their own, as drug syndicates grow so corruption creeps up the state hierarchy. Our research has come across several local jurisdictions where local political actors are linked to local criminal actors and dirty money through their need fund campaigns or patronage and secure their position. 3.Violence and fragility: Larger urban nodes with most longstanding markets have all generated street-based retail markets, which over time, and with an influx of weapons, have generated battles for territory (or ‘turf’) and high levels of violence. Cape Town currently has a murder rate that puts it into the top ten most violent cities in the world, with gang dynamics that rival those of Latin America: this is intimately related to the drug market. Mombasa, too, is undergoing a concerted and aggressive police crack down in response to spirally violence linked to gangs, which are linked both to drug syndicates and extremist groups.
At the level of street retail, dealers often sell a suite of drugs that link several different transit and supply routes, bringing numerous drug transit routes to bear on local explosions of violent competition. For example, in South Africa, Cape gangs tend to sell crystal meth, qualuudes, crack cocaine, and heroin, as well as other drugs. Yet heroin is largely supplied by Tanzanian networks, Cocaine by Nigerian ones, and Crystal Meth is produced in the country, with precursors sources through Asian networks along with qualuudes. The degree to which street retail generates violence is tied to whether gangs based on turf control are able and allowed to form. In that sense, the degree to which violence is linked to the heroin trade depends a lot on Trend 1 and 2.
Urbanisation, governance and violence are often analysed separately, but the heroin economy is a crucial component in shaping each trend and cuts across and connects them. Understanding the drug trade in this region is understanding key development phenomenon, and yet the trade and its employees and users, are too often invisible. Heroin in particular is a poor man’s drug and is hidden not just by the criminality of the trade, but by the marginalisation of and discrimination against the communities where it flourishes.
Finland: I would like to reflect on a few questions in the background document for today’s meeting. Early warning systems – Intelligence needs to be available. It has its own meaning in different context – paramedics need the latest information. NPS on the market: we are able to ban them quickly, only two stayed some time after they were banned but usually substances adapt to their scheduling. The importance of responsive international scheduling is also important. In the big picture, the finish market doesn’t change much but the use of the internet affected the interactions and exchange.
Colombia: This global problem remains a key threat. The validity of the rule of law and the freedom of Colombians, entrepreneurship and the legal economy is threatened by the current state of the market, particularly in rural areas and among young people. Internationally, we promote the revitalisation of common and shared responsibility if we wish to successfully address to suppress the supply and demand of illegal drugs and connected criminal activities. We await the resolute commitment of all state. Unfortunately, the situation in Venezuela has its effect on the whole region, we have responded with respect to our international commitments, however Venezuela became a network of drug trafficking. We promote coordinating and sharing of roadmaps to tackle all aspects of the world drug problem, particularly when it comes to law enforcement. The problem is not one of narcotics, synthetics and NPS have gained ground and more must be done to strengthen institutional responses.
Mexico: I have a question for the Civil Society Representative. We would like to know whether you have carried out a cross-referencing of the excellent information that you have as regards to different types of crime? Is it equally related to other criminal networks?
Simone Haysom (Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime): Whether urbanisation is contributing to the criminal markets, we are often asked to look at the possible connection to illegal wildlife trade. There are a few that you would expect, major drug traffickers in Kenya have been sentenced within the EU for ivory trade. These points of conversions do arise but they change from place to place.
UNODC: The ATS market 10 years after the 2009 plan of action. Kilograms are now tons, the capacity of labs has increased and forensic labs are reporting a purity of meth that is so high that they can no longer detect the traces. EMCDDA reported earlier that MDMA doses in tablets doubled in recent years so synthetics are a game changer. They can be and are manufactured anywhere in the World on various scales. The GA in 1997 already realised synthetics are a different kind of challenge. The absence of a global monitoring system made it difficult to understand everything and as a consequence you pledged to take measures to strengthen monitoring -> UNODC Global Smart Program. In 2008 the quantity of amphetamine type seizures was only 60 tons it has increased 4-fold by 2017. Methamphetamine seizures increased seven-fold and affect new regions. Prices are decreasing and the purity remains.
Awareness and capacity building has improved trends and the availability of law enforcement to identify contraband. I really want to highlight the efforts of MS to increase capacity of their labs and forces. International collaboration and exchange of knowledge has been imperative in this success with concrete outcomes such as the UN toolkit on synthetic drugs.
Early warning systems have been a decisive element to take action and, in this context, the critical role of forensic laboratories have been already mentioned today. There are members in this room who personally contributed to enhanced information and access to it. Argentina was one of the recent MS that introduced a generic law and the early warning system from other MS led them to this solution. We know that knowledge and capacity available is far from satisfactory.
UNODC: NPS adulterants – a worrying phenomenon. People seem to prefer the “old stuff”. Priperazines: Clozapine, Olanzapine are sold in the pharmacy but are sold as ecstasy on the black market. Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice) are mimicking the cannabinoid receptor agonist effects but cause major health complications. Tryptamines – LSD is mimicking magic mushrooms. On the scene, no drugs mean no party: 75% percent of participant of our study were positive for NPS. It was the so called recreational use, but there is also the self-medication use for young adults under a lot of stress. We call it dysfunctional use if not medical. Some are looking for increased abilities to socialise or to feel or suppress certain emotions.
There is a group of people that call themselves psychonauts that usually use the most hallucinogenic NPS. This is a new kind of shamanism used in pair with rhythmic music. This is a very different cultural view and the approach has to be different too. These people are looking for spiritual experiences. Or similar as to the famous movie, Matrix, showed that through a tablet you can gain enhanced understanding of the world, they aim to look at themselves in a new way. Increased use for enhanced cognition.
Heroin and opioids: people are using drugs and wake up in a negative state, motivated to search a new high and then they are out again. They are not homogeneous. People use drugs for many reasons with many backgrounds and many objectives and many contexts. We have to take into account the cultural needs of these populations. I have to present my two books: treatment of stimulant disorders and the prevention of HIV among stimulant users.
Senegal: Some NPS are still legal which we see as a problem. All countries should have the same understanding and response as it is creating massive issues for the future, particularly for young people.
Singapore: Despite the large number of NPS on the market, this is not a prevalent problem in Singapore. Our recent Misuse of Drugs Act operates under the generic listing approach. Once necessary consultations have taken place, we schedule them as a control drug and so production and trafficking can be considered an offence. Our list is constantly reviewed and extended. In order to respond to the growing threat. Effective collaboration between key stakeholders is necessary to respond. Most prevalent NPS abuse: synthetic cannabinoids and katinons. We are committed to informed scheduling decisions. We subscribe and provide update to the UNODC early warning system. It has been useful in guiding our strategy and develop evidence-based policy responses. We conducted a joint training initiative on the global NPS problem. We hosted the global smart program that works through the systematic data collection and sharing. We are committed to keep our country drug-free. We should strive to be one step ahead of the NPS market.
Iran: It was mostly mentioned in Martin’s presentation, I have a question about law enforcement’s capacity to detect and find NPS: how many countries have such capacity? Same for early warning advisory.
Pakistan: Psychoactive tablets are on the rise and there is a huge demand ever increasing – have you looked at what causes such demand for amphetamine types? Should governments put social and welfare problems before law enforcement? These substances are spoiling the future of our World. We have to seriously address these issues and reduce demand. Thank you for the thought provoking presentations.
Interpol: Information exchange is key in fighting drug trafficking and organised crime. We support your work and thank you for the efforts.
Argentina: The information collected by our system is submitted to our special agency and thus we able to detect new substances. We identified new NPS and can anticipate more to come. We participate in the IONS early warning system [and two more].
UNODC (Policy Analysis): It is important to start responding early on and I believe Angela May mentioned how these swift responses in Austria had positive experiences. In francophone Africa, though we made sure our publications are translated to Russian, we are lacking behind.
As for Iran, I can say how many countries provided information: 120. There is some capacity, of course nothing is perfect and this doesn’t mean we have a lot of capacity, but we have some. The range is increasing and about 80 countries host labs and are actively participating in our international projects. We still see a need to catch up.
Iran, we are ourselves looking for answers there. Globalisation creates more opportunities. Now, methamphetamine is definitely driven by supply and they are pushing it to more countries.
UNODC (Guerra): I recall an article in the Herald about “cheaper and easier” and it was about cultivating poppy or coca and its low costs compared to laboratories. The drug in itself is not doing the problem, it is always about a human, so we have to ask ourselves what is affecting this new generation to seek drugs so much more? There is the secret suffering of this generation – I will talk more about this tomorrow morning.
China: Scheduling by class NPS and analogues is an approach in our history. There are over 100 fentanyl analogues but we can foresee that […] We adopted safeguard mechanism to guide our control. The challenge for us lies in analysis and monitoring. We see suspicious packages coming to the countries, we saw 300 types of NPS. There is a downward trend in detection – in 2015 98.9% and 88% in 2016 and 40% in 2019 which goes to show that continuously updating the schedules is working. Synthetic cannabinoids and cathinol are dominating the NPS market in China and I would like to share our learnings with our partners so we can further cooperation internationally.
Nuria Calzada, Energy Control (video message): My name is Nuria Calzada and I am the coordinator of Energy Control, of the Spanish NGO Asociación Bienestar y Desarrollo. Energy Control is a harm reduction project aimed at people who use drugs, mainly in nightlife settings. One of the services we have offered since 1998 is drug checking, which seeks to inform people about the composition of the drugs they are going to take, as well as to advise them for lower risk consumption. Currently we have three types of drug checking services: Onsite, at parties and festivals; stationary services in four Spanish cities; and by post, both national and international. We also coordinate the Trans-European Drug Information Project, a network of European Drug Checking services that share their expertise and data. Only in the past 10 years, our national drug checking service has tested nearly forty thousand samples, voluntarily submitted by users. Also, since 2014, our International Drug Checking service, has analysed more than five thousand samples, mainly from the cryptomarkets, being cocaine, NPS and MDMA the three most analysed categories. So, we can confirm that drug markets are dynamic and currently include the widest range of substances known to date. In addition, for some drugs such as cocaine or MDMA, purity levels have increased. NPS continue to pose a major threat to Public Health, especially synthetic cannabinoids and opioids derive from fentanyl. At the same time, new forms of drug distribution through the Internet have increased the access to all drugs, both through the visible network and cryptomarkets. And this is another trend that we clearly see in our users.We are convinced that drug checking can help to address this phenomenon in two ways: harm reduction, that allows people to discard products they don’t really want to take, and monitoring, which allows us to understand the reality of drug markets and offer quick responses.
Drug Checking Services are market monitoring tools, that are complementary to other sources of information. Their added value lies in the fact that:
- They allow contact with hard-to-reach populations.
- They not only provide information on the composition, but also on other aspects, such as: acquisition routes, prices, forms of use, experienced problems, and so on.
- They also allow the early detection of emerging phenomena, thus reducing the period of time of reaction. In the case of NPS, drug checking has made important contributions to European Early Warning Systems.
- They enjoy credibility among drug users and therefore allow early warning to be more effective than official institutions.
- And finally, they have contributed to the improvement of our knowledge through publications and scientific papers.
These added-value elements have allowed information from drug checking to be considered by public institutions such as the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) or the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). However, we know drug checking can be controversial, like other harm reduction interventions such as supervised consumption rooms, naloxone distribution or syringe exchange programmes. This may be difficult for those countries that, despite seeing the relevance of these services, may not want to face a heated debate around them. In any case, our accumulated experience during the last two decades allows us to recommend to other countries: the incorporation of drug checking to their monitoring tools, with appropriate financing, their integration in the national health systems and the encouragement of scientific research to evaluate their impact. To conclude, we would like to make a global call for self-critical reflection. We all agree that never before in our history have we had so much quantity, quality and diversity of available substances and so easy access to them. It is clear that we are doing something wrong and yet we continue to insist on the same approaches. So, it’s time for political courage to take action and apply innovative strategies without fear of being judged as crazy because, as someone once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting for different results”.
Chair: Meeting adjourned. We continue tomorrow with our second session.