Informal Dialogue with the INCB President

VNGOC: Welcome

INCB president: We are committed to our continued dialogue. In the last 2 years, we engage with NGOs in the board’s session. The important role of CSOs is respectful of human rights and evidence base. CSOs are often the primary or main providers of services – we appreciate your work.

Harm Reduction Australia: When will the INCB formally support and recognize the validity and effectiveness of harm reduction programs within their communiques and documents?

INCB: The position of the board is often misunderstood. The articles of conventions require appropriate measures to demand reduction, treatment, etc. these conventions don’t refer to the concept of harm reduction – it has not a universally agreed upon definition. We refer to measures aimed at reducing the negative consequences of drug use. The board acknowledges the need of measures based on reliable scientific data. We encourage a greater dialogue among stakeholders. We support initiatives such as needle exchange, medical assisted therapy, drug consumption rooms as long as they are part f an integrated approach.

Turkish Green Crescent: The CBD-infused drinks market is growing in North America and Europe, which may have a possible conclusion of “promotion of cannabis as a healthy substance”. What are the views of INCB on the possible effects of this expansive market on the behaviors of youth worldwide. Is there a probability to trigger the normalization of cannabis and other substances especially for younger generations?

INCB: The responsibility of determining medical use is in the mandate of the WHO. Normalizing is tied to other issues. In the absence of scientific studies on the health effects of these product, it is difficult to say anything. If medical cannabis programs, if not well structures, can have adverse effects and the perception of risk can lower.

EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs: How does the INCB plan to involve civil society in a transparent way at each of your country visits, and to consult civil society in the drafting process of the INCB’s annual reports?

INCB: We recognize civil society’s fundamental role. In the pursuit of our treaty monitoring role, we pursue collaboration with VNGOC.

Instituto RIA, Mexico: How does the INCB determine quotas (cupos) for production of medical cannabis around the world, particularly between dried flower and other extracts, and the swiftly changing normative and legal frameworks in member states?

INCB: It is up to the national government with an estimate that is in line with the expected scale of production and guard against diversion. We review these projections and compare them to conventions taking into consideration the prevailing market conditions. We only have cannabis resin tinctures so we require raw material data. We provide conversion factors. When specific cannabinoids will be scheduled, THC will be reported from raw materials.

EURAD – Europe Against Drugs, Belgium (Stig Erik Sørheim): In recent years, several UN bodies, including UNAIDS, UNDP, WHO, the UNODC and the Chief Executives Board, have challenged member states to decriminalize the use, possession and also cultivation of drugs for personal consumption. The INCB has pointed to decriminalization in Portugal as a best practice.
However, decriminalization has been implemented in different ways in different countries, and there does not seem to be an agreed definition of the term or to what extent do the UN drug control conventions limit member states´ flexibility in implementing decriminalization policies? How does the INCB define decriminalization?

INCB: Treaties require proportionate response to drug related activities. States have obligations to set up certain behavior as punishable offences, not necessarily criminal. This is subject to constitutional principles of states and proportionality. The conventions don’t oblige states to adopt punitive responses for minor offences. Alternatives to punishment are encouraged and certain flexibility is at the disposal of states to respond to major offences such as trafficking. The principle of proportionality is important. 2019 report reiterates that.

Association Proyecto Hombre, Spain: What role does the INCB play to accelerate the adoption by Member States of evidence-based and integral drug policies and interventions to better counter the world drug problem, attempting to prevent strategies based on beliefs or perceptions which are not supported by scientific evidence?

INCB: We are a monitoring board and we assist states to meet their obligations to implement policies that are balanced and humane. We emphasized that epidemiological studies are needed. We invite countries to implement strategies based on scientific data.

Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, United States (Michael Kravitz): In the international treaties, hemp has been seen as a plant produced for fiber and seed oil, not as a plant produced for flower and resin constituents. The treaty merely exempts Cannabis plants used for “industrial and horticultural” purpose. In the USA we also used to use such a definition where all Cannabis was defined as a controlled substance unless it was licensed by the DEA for production under the CSA. The CSA has recently been amended to use a definition of hemp more in keeping with international emerging consensus, as defined in the 2018 Farm Bill, the term “hemp” now means the plant species Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. US hemp production for CBD is intended for human consumption of medicinal products and includes the flower. This evolving definition of hemp, which is being driven by the control of THC, presents a challenge with respect to regulation. From our perspective, regulation should be determined by the end use of the product, and inform both production regulation and product regulation as a matter of public health. How does the INCB foresee this challenge being addressed within international drug control conventions

INCB: The term hem is not mentioned in the ’61 convention. It does not apply for cultivation to industrial purposes. The board urges parties to the convention that it is undertaken as outlined. If cultivation is for the flowering top regardless of the THC or CBD content.

Transform Drug Policy Foundation, United Kingdom (Steve Rolles): Some Member States are choosing to legally regulate their domestic adult-use cannabis markets. Countries taking this step have become convinced that legal regulation will better protect and promote the health and well-being of their citizens. They assert that cannabis regulation is thus consistent with the fundamental aims of the UN drug conventions, but also acknowledge that such a step does not comply with certain provisions of the drug treaties. Given the fact that calling on those countries to get back in line with the letter of the conventions is no longer a viable option, what options could realistically be pursued to resolve the treaty tensions around cannabis regulation, and how would you support such a dialogue?

INCB: The conventions limit the use of substances to medical and scientific purposes. This is one of the primary means of safeguarding humanity. There is no exception. As we monitor compliance, the obligations are owed not to the board. We reaffirm the central nature of the three treaties. It is true that some MS decided to regulate and legalize fir non-medical, it is in violation of the treaties and they support the limitation in the broader sense. We are committed to uphold the conventions as written but we pursue a dialogue with all countries.

WOLA – Washington Office on Latin America, United States (John Walsh): In the USA, beginning in 2012, eleven states and the District of Columbia have opted to legally regulate adult-use cannabis. More states are likely to enact cannabis regulation laws, including several in 2020. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government –first under President Obama and now under President Trump — has contended that the USA remains in full compliance with its UN drug treaty obligations with regard to cannabis. Does the INCB consider the USA to be in full compliance with the UN drug conventions with respect to various state-level cannabis regulation systems now underway? If not, what measures is the INCB taking to encourage such compliance?

INCB: We call on MS, where the non-medical use is allowed, to bring back their systems within the frames of the conventions. The CND takes into account the UNGASS and HLMS and we are in discussion with MS.

IDPC – International Drug Policy Consortium, United Kingdom (Marie Nougier): What more is the INCB planning on doing to ensure that drug control is in line with human rights, especially for countries continuing to impose the death penalty and/or are involved in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and acts of ill-treatment against people suspected of drug offences?

INCB: our annual report clearly states that human rights are essential and we are concerned about human rights violations in the name of drug control. Drug control happens in a context and in a context of legal obligations. We remind states that the primary objective of the conventions is to safeguard the well-being of humanity. No state is exempt from human rights norms. Criminal justice responses must be characterized by due process, must be humane and proportionate. We advise MS to consider the abolition of the death penalty.

Drug Free Australia: Pill testing and other drug checking services are becoming increasingly popular in a number of member states. How does UNODC/INCB view the service, seeing that in our view it endorses and normalizes addictive behavior and is not in line with the international drug control regime?

INCB: I can only speak on the behalf of the board. The measures towards reducing negative health consequences of drug use – not all these measures have the same applications, they can be implemented in vastly different ways and in different contexts. The board provides some guidance, we state that in order for drug policies to be consistent, they should be evidence based and should not lead to crimes. We support interventions that meet that threshold.

European Association of Palliative Care (David Oliver): What actions and what plans are in development from the INCB on ensuring improved availability and access to controlled medicines for medical and scientific use?

INCB: We strongly support MS to take this issue seriously. MS adopted the outcome document at the Ministerial Segment. We published a supplement to the AR that was specifically on medical accessibility – based on information provided by MS and CSO. The responses showed promising developments but there are still important issues requiring attention. We have launched a project with e-learning modules for Latin American MS.

INCB: Thank you.

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