Informal Dialogue with the INCB President

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EBcV_F5B-g&w=560&h=315]

  1. Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, international, Jamie Bridge

We remain seriously concerned for the safety and wellbeing of our friends, civil society partners, colleagues and people who use – or have used – drugs in Ukraine. This includes the clear threats to existing drug services, and the disruption of existing treatments and the prescription of controlled substances. Can you please let us know how INCB is engaging in this developing crisis to ensure unbroken access to controlled substances for medical needs?

 The board shares the same concern and issued a statement on its website on 28 February 2022, in which we expressed our deep concern over the acute humanitarian crisis in the region, and the importance of urgent action to ensure availability of controlled substances in Ukraine and its neighboring countries. This includes controlled substances for drugs substitution therapy. circulated circular letter was also sent out to all governments the next day, encouraging the authorities to consider the use of simplified and control measures for controlled substances during these challenging times. To speed up the export and delivery of these substances to the affected population. Since the beginning of March, the Board Secretariat has also received a large number of inquiries from competent authorities and international visitors on the operation of these simplified control measures, and Seabees, engaging closely with national authorities and other international organizations, including the World Health Organization to facilitate the use of the simplified control measures and to support the availability of controlled substances for medical purposes. The board is continuing to closely monitor the situation and stands ready to facilitate and clarify as required. We also welcome any updates from civil society in this regard.

  1. International Movement for Advancement of Education Culture Social & Economic Development (IMAECSED), iNDIA, Samir Kumar Das

How can we as civil society get involved more actively in the work of INCB?

We believe that international collaboration partnerships are necessary to ensure that drug control and substance use prevention efforts are effective, a health centered approach to global drug policy needs to fully include civil society and non governmental organizations as essential partners. Civil society is particularly important for the implementation of drug use treatment and prevention programs. Why the mandate of INCB is to primarily cooperate with governments to achieve the aims of the drug control conventions. It is also necessary that civil society involvement be protected and encouraged in order to achieve balanced drug control. It is through meetings and discussions like this one that INCB is able to hearthe diverse and meaningful views of civil society. Your perspectives and grassroot understanding of how drug control laws are being implemented are essential for governments and the border like your active involvement in dialogue with the board is also vital. So global monitoring of criminal justice approaches and ensure that drug control measures safeguard the health and welfare of people and respect their fundamental rights. Civil society groups help governments meet their treaty obligations at the national and sub national levels, particularly through your innovative approaches and well designed social health and education programs. Thank you again for raising this overarching question of how civil society contributes to the work of INCB and the global drugs system. We welcome your continued inputs on implementing balanced and effective drug control policies.

  1. Veterans Action Council, USA, Ricardo Pareyda and Instituto RIA, AC, Mexico, Zara Snapp

Can you comment on current civil society engagement related to the cannabis guidelines? How can we support the INCB in providing greater transparency around the document and participation of civil society in your meetings? Regarding the involvement of private industry in the process to date, has there been any effort to identify or avoid conflicts of interest?

Since CND voted on the WHO recommendations on cannabis and cannabis related substances, and SEBI has been working together with member states for implementation pursuant to the outcome of the voting that is in line with the conventions. The board organized an expert group meeting to informal consultations with major producing and manufacturing countries and for inter governmental meetings. Even though the matters highly technical and concerns the administrative process of reporting and monitoring by competent national authorities, the board has also sought the opinion of the civil society organizations on the reporting standards. In February 2022. A questionnaire was circulated through the Vienna NGO committee on drugs. The board is pleased to see that the questioner has been taken well received by civil society organizations and appreciate all the information provided. Because of the technical nature of the issue. The board has been working closely with competent national to provide assistance in several technical issues raised in relation to compliance with the requirements set out in the 1961 and 1971 conventions in relation to the monitoring and reporting of cannabis and cannabis related substances. This is the way in which the board works also in other areas, mainly with competent national authorities of member states. As you know the board has established in some years regular dialogue with civil society organizations during its main sessions and that is the format in addition to this one in the CMD that we have been using to ensure a continuous dialogue with NGOs. In addition to meetings with civil society during our country missions when we visit visit to review the implementation of the conventions. In 2018 the board’s meeting with the civil society was on the topic of the use of cannabis for medical and non medical purposes, which related to the topic of the thematic chapter of the board’s Annual Report 2018 on cannabis and cannabinoids for medical, scientific and recreational use risks and benefits. Some private sector companies selected by the competent national authorities were invited to participate in some of the informal consultations to provide technical input to the discussion, but they did not participate in the deliberations on the regulatory standards precisely to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

  1. Open Society Foundations, USA, Kasia Malinowska

According to data provided by Afghanistan last year, well over million people in Afghanistan are dependent to opium and the country is now on the verge of collapse. How will INCB engage?

This has been the concern. The issue of Afghanistan has been the concern of the entire international community with the situation that has been aggravated by recent political the board spreads serious concern about the extremely fluid security and political situation in Afghanistan, and that nearly half of the population of Afghanistan is in desperate need of humanitarian assistance due to increased levels of violence, displacement, natural disasters, severe drought, flooding and the COVID 19 pandemic. Prior to the overthrow the democratically elected government of Afghanistan in August 2021. The board had been closely engaged in dialogue with the Afghan government as well as the international donor and partner community under Articles 14 and 48 (?) of the 1961 convention as amended. Under these provisions of the convention the Board in each of its annual reports and bilateral and multilateral engagements with the UN and non-UN bodies and other partners, due attention of the international community to the situation in Afghanistan and continuously called for cooperative action at the international level to assess the government of Afghanistan in this context, the board worked closely with government of Afghanistan to identify the urgent needs in the drug control that could be addressed to technical and financial assistance of the international community. Among many of the urgent priorities identified was the need to increase healthcare opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation of drug users, in particular for women and youth. On the question of the nature and scope of engagement with the present government. The board will monitor the developing institutional guidance from the United Nations and will act within this framework. However, I can assure you that the board within its mandate stands ready to facilitate further support to Afghanistan, through continuous engagement with the United Nations and other agencies, and with members of the international community at large while highlighting that efforts to stabilize the country will not be sustainable, without also effectively addressing the country’s illicit drug economy.

  1. Green Crescent Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, Nemache Mawere

How does INCB support the increased use of non-punitive drug addiction programs?

The importance of humane drug control policies that are health centered the non punitive are extremely important. The board takes this question as an opportunity to emphasize that it is essential for all states to increase the availability and improve the quality of treatment and rehabilitation programs for people affected by drug use. and dependence. INCB consistently calls on governments to design drug control policies that reflect proportionate responses to minor drug offenses, particularly in those cases relating to possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. INCB reminds governments that the drug control conventions give them discretion to provide alternatives to conviction and punishment, such as undergoing measures of treatment, education after care, rehabilitation and social integration. Compulsory treatment which is administered without the express consent of the affected individual should also be fully discouraged. Compulsory treatment of drug users is in direct conflict with the human rights principles and the board advocates for the closure of compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centers. There is a need for advocacy towards ensuring that three treatment programs are providing quality care and respect for human dignity. Civil society can help to ensure that treatment, rehabilitation and social integration services are tailored effectively to the needs of the people, particularly in agenda an age sensitive manner. civil society groups can also identify gaps in the provision of treatment and conduct operational research on good practices so that they can be continuous improvement of treatment programs

  1. Virginians Against Drug Violence, United States, Michael Krawitz

Cannabis, when grown for medicinal products inside the USA as a specialty crop, would fit well into the definition of the “horticultural” cultivation under USA law as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. However, in the Single Convention treaty, “horticulture” seems to only be describing an example of a kind of cultivation exempted from control as other than medicinal use. What is the definition of horticulture within the treaty? How does it compare with the definition of horticulture within the UNFAO?

Answer: The 1961 Convention and the commentary do not provide a definition of horticulture, and therefore I’m not in a position to compare it to the definitions you have just mentioned. The comment states quote, the horticultural purposes mentioned in paragraph two of article 28 seem to be of little importance. Close quotations. This leads me to suggest that this activity was not considered as a significant one in relation to the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes. Indeed, the cannabis plant was cultivated for ornamental purposes, it might be that the drafters had this kind of use in mind when they refer to the horticultural purposes, but certainly not the production of the cannabis or cannabis resin that is clearly under control, according to paragraph one of article 28 of the Single Convention. An important thing to add here is that irrespective of how state parties define horticulture in the national legislation, the board looks at the underlying activities related to cultivation of the cannabis plant, and whether they relate to any of the provisions of the conventions, irrespective of definitions adopted by state parties is the underlying activities related to cannabis plant cultivation for the purpose of production of cannabis and cannabis resin. Then the provisions of the 1961 convention apply, namely articles 23 and 28. Related to the control of cannabis Thank you.

  1. International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, USA, Katherine Pettus

To prevent global spread of the US opioid crisis, the Lancet Commission on the North American Opioid Crisis launched on February 5 2022, and recommended that  “The World Health Organization, with support of donor organisations, should coordinate delivery of generic morphine to hospitals and hospices in low-income countries. This action will require the support of the International Narcotics Control Board, which oversees the UN conventions on narcotics drugs and licences and regulates licit opioid production.”

Would the INCB be prepared, in principle at least, to support such a recommendation, given the historic imbalanced application of the drug control treaties that has resulted in > 70% of the world lacking access to opioid medicines for pain relief and palliative care?

Such a recommendation would be in line with past recommendations of the board. The board has for a long time, advocated for increased and above all equitable access to controlled substances including opioid analgesics for the treatment of pain and palliative care. In 1989. The board produced a specific report on this followed by a special chapter in our annual report in 1995. In 2010, we prepared a comprehensive report illustrating the imbalance in the consumption of controlled substances for medical purposes. And we asked countries to indicate the obstacles they faced in ensuring better access for patients. We continue this process with special reports in 2015 and 2018. And we will produce a new report this year in 2022. We have also worked with researchers and other stakeholders such as the Lance’s permission on pain relief and palliative care. We have shared our data and we are pleased to see that our data is contributing to better illustrating the problem and finding the solutions. In 2016. We learned the INCB learning to provide government experts with better understanding of the requirements of the conventions. In the INCB learning training events. We have always included a session devoted to the issue of availability and together with WHO and UNODC we have illustrated what are the means and tools that country officials can use to ensure access for the citizens to essential medicines. Thank you.

  1. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, United States, Iulia Vatau

In Chapter I of the INCB Report 2019, it is emphasised that education and improvement of factors that increase young people’s vulnerability to problematic drug use should be mitigated with regards to youth protection and public health. That entails context-specific intervention strategies for the prevention of problematic drug use from an early age. Ineffective scare tactics are being employed in many countries, although those are deemed ineffective in Chapter I of the INCB report 2019. The actual implementation of country-specific evidence-based intervention programmes appears to be scarce on a global scale. How is the INCB overseeing and evaluating the implementation of effective intervention strategies to reduce problematic drug use among young people, as well as improve youth accessible drug services? Along these lines, how does INCB encourage member states to utilise the suggested evidence-based intervention strategies to protect young people?

Thank you for drawing attention to the important messages in INCB his 2019 Annual Report relating to improving prevention and treatment services for young people including the need to enhance preventive education and early intervention strategies. The board takes every opportunity to encourage governments to take measures to protect children, involvement of children in the illicit production and trafficking of drugs. While the Board’s mandate does not include overseeing such strategies, the board does monitor government compliance with the drug control conventions. Specifically, the board reinforces to governments that they should take all practicable measures to prevent and treat drug dependence through evidence based intervention strategies. In line with the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well being. The board is particularly concerned about the consequences of drug use, has used its reports and statements to highlight the need for more awareness of evidence based prevention. And treatment strategies, particularly to prevent drug use, initiation or progression of substance use among youth. Civil society has a particularly important role to play in collecting data and studying the results of new prevention and treatment strategies and programs. With your support they can be more consistent implementation of evidence based prevention, intervention and policies. Without civil society reaching groups with heightened vulnerability, such as children would be an even greater challenge. The real life context of children exposed to dangerous substances requires our collective interventions based on both scientific evidence and empirical research, as well as a local understanding of unique needs. INCB appreciate your efforts, studying and implementing specific interventions tailored to youth. I look forward to continuing this dialogue on how to develop policies that protect the health and well being of young people.

  1. EURAD Belgium, Stig Erik Sørheim & Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation, Pakistan, Cristina von Sperling Afridi

Several countries and jurisdictions in the Americas have legalized the use of cannabis for so-called recreational purposes. In the recent year, some European countries are also changing laws to legalize production, use and perhaps also sale of cannabis. How does the INCB view these developments in light of the obligations member states have under the global drug conventions?

You have raised a very important issue. Thank you that relates to the legal obligations of state parties, and also has evident public health consequences. INCB monitors closely the laws and legislative developments in all States Parties to the drug control conventions, and has frequently expressed his concerns about the trends emerging from a number of countries pertaining to the legalization and commercialization of cannabis for non medical purposes. Above all, INCB engages directly with member states in close dialogue on these topics, including on any changes to cannabis regulations, in order to promote full compliance with the international drug control conventions. We have been unequivocal that the legalization or permission of the use or sale of cannabis for non medical or scientific purposes, including at the sub national level, is a violation of the drug control conventions, is undermining the universal adherence to the drug control conventions and will have adverse effects on public health and control of drug trafficking. INCB frequently the raises this it in its dialogues with member states and in public statements. But it in its latest 2021 report that under Article 4 Paragraph C of the 1961 convention, the production manufacture export import distribution of trade in use and possession of drugs are limited exclusively to medical and scientific purposes, and that any measures aligned for the use of cannabis for non medical purposes are in violation of the legal obligations. Such measures are also incompatible with the provisions of the 1988 Convention on the criminalization of certain acts, such as manufacturer offering for sale, or distribution of drugs in its 2021 and prior reports, and INCB has therefore drawn the attention of the international community, including the Commission of Narcotic Drugs to the need to address this issue of cannabis for non medical purposes. 

  1. Fields of Green for ALL NPC, South Africa, Myrtle Clarke

We have been looking into the documentation and we haven’t published anything yet, however, it seems there are discrepancies in the reporting on cannabis out of nearly every country we have looked at. What is the INCB doing, or plan to do, to help instigate more accurate and useful cannabis reporting?

The board is working with member states to clarify reporting standards within the framework provided by the decision of Cmd on scheduling. Our hope is that through a process of consultation with government officials, from competent national authorities, it would be possible to harmonize reporting and avoid the discrepancies that you are indicating.

  1. Turkish Green Crescent Society, Turkey, Yaren Kasarcı

The diversion of controlled precursors and the misuse of non-scheduled chemicals often happen in multilayered ways, involving the use of digital means. Furthermore, it is a fact that drug traffickers are increasingly exploiting vulnerabilities in domestic trade and distribution chains on top of international trade channels. The INCB is supporting voluntary public-private partnerships in this regard. Is the INCB working on any kind of recommendations about complex transactions involving cryptocurrencies?

The board has indeed highlighted both issues, diversion of precursors from domestic distribution channels and the use of digital means, in particular, the internet for precursor diversion as priority areas for intervention by governments for the last few years. In our most recent 2021 precursors report, we provide a detailed situational analysis and make several concrete recommendations to government in relation to enhancing the focus on domestic manufacturer and distribution channels. Similarly, and following on the learnings of our Inter operation acronym we encourage governments to place increased emphasis on cybercrime investigations relating to precursors. We also encourage governments to work closely with internet service providers, email and social media services, and business to business platforms to provide an effective deterrent to the exploitation of the internet for precursor trafficking. Regarding transactions involving cryptocurrencies, the INCB grids program hosted a series of meetings and webinars related to exploitation of financial intermediary services by traffickers of new psychoactive substances, pensioners and their related chemicals throughout 2021. A cryptocurrency exchange service provider, which is called virtual asset service provider Bas, from East Asia participated in the stakeholder consultation on trafficking of dangerous substances through exploitation of the wallet services, organized by the grips program in February 2021. And shared its experiences in preventing misuse of cryptocurrencies for illicit purposes to cooperations with government. The participants in the stakeholder consultation adopted a set of practical recommendations including encouragement of governments to work with us to enhance monitoring of virtual assets and prevention of illicit activities. The GRIDS program plans to organize another stakeholder consultation focused on this in March 2023.

  1. FAAAT,France, Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli

Researchers find that INCB is the most secretive of all international organizations: even the UN Security Council is more transparent. On 4 December last year, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson reaffirmed that INCB should, in principle, follow general standards for transparency and accountability. What is the justification for the current practices of INCB emaining so secretive? What steps, if any, has INCB taken (or is planning to take) to correct this?

I think it’s important to clarify on this issue. I would like you to note that the board is not an inter governmental body, but it treaty mandated body monitoring body that ensures compliance with the treaties. In this regard the working principles applicable to the board have certain differences. The working modality and rules of procedure of the board are based on the Articles 9 to 11 of the 61 Convention and are developed in a way so as to ensure effective performance of the boats duties under the conventions, while ensuring its full independence and impartiality. Principles of impartiality and independence are key to ensuring that the board can effectively perform its quasi judicial functions to monitor and ensure compliance by member states with their obligations under the international drug control treaties, free from undue political or any other pressure, confidentiality of certain aspects of the work of the Board is required under the conventions and has developed with a view of ensuring effective performance of the board’s functions. In particular, article 14 of the 1961 convention as amended, requires confidentiality of engagement with certain member states. When specific procedural measures to ensure the execution of the provisions of the convention have been invoked, particularly in cases when the aims of this convention are being seriously endangered by those states. I quote from the article. In addition due to the nature of statistical and operational information related to narcotic drug, psychotropic substances are their precursors submitted to the board by the member states including those related to trade, business, commercial or professional, secret or trade process the board is required to keep aspects of that information confidential, while at the same time providing member states with the required support in ensuring adequate availability of those substances and informing the global community on the trends and developments in this regard. the confidentiality of the information collected during country missions ensures the security and safety of those who submitted the information, particularly members of civil society groups in some countries, where speaking out or engaging with international actors may lead to potential reprisals without maintaining the nature of those interactions as confidential. The board would be faced with a scenario in which it would either have to forego consultations with civil society groups in order to not to subject them to any undue risk or to openly diverted civil society interlocutors, opening them up to potential reprisals as such, maintaining the confidential nature of its interactions with civil society, it’s a means of ensuring civil societies heard, while at the same time mitigating any risk of your price. Confidentiality is also a condition required by member states who share information with the board about the implementation of the treaties, which ensures that the board can engage in a frank and open dialogue with member states to promote the effective implementation of the treaties. At the same time, I would like to note that the board makes every effort to inform the international community about its work, including through annual reports, technical publications, alerts, newsletters, press releases and statements, which are all available on its website. Moreover, the board actively participates in the sessions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where it informs the member states about its work. The board’s engagement in this very dialogue with the civil society is another example of the efforts of the board to make its work known to the public and invite discussions on important issues of drug control.

  1. IFSW – International Federation of Social Workers, international (headquarters in London), Silvia Franke

As more and more countries are changing their cannabis politics towards regulation and evidence based measures, how is the position of the INCB in consequence?

Thank you for raising this question which raises a contemporary issue related to regulated cannabis markets. At the outset I wish to recall the INCB has no specific mandate in the scheduling process for the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Any changes to the scope of control of substances, including cannabis and related substances under the 1961 and 1971 conventions are initiated by States Parties, or who and decided upon by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. INCB only has a specific mandate with regard to precursor chemicals under the 1988 convention in recommending to the Commission substances for possible control. CND then takes a decision. So INCB monitors the implementation of the treaty provisions including reporting and control requirements. The board has consistently emphasized that all approaches to drug use and treatment should be evidence based. In order to answer this question, we must first differentiate between the concepts of regulation of cannabis markets for medical purposes and those for non medical purposes. With regard to regulation of cannabis for medical purposes and implementation of evidence based measures as referred to in your question. It should be noted that single convention allows state parties to permit and regulate the use of cannabis for medical purposes. However, in order to prevent misuse and diversion, The Single Convention establishes a set of control measures, which should be implemented in order for programs for the use of cannabis for medical purposes to be compliant with the Single Convention, articles 23 and 28 of the 61 convention. These include among others, the requirement for a national cannabis agency to control supervise and license the cultivation of cannabis crops, to designate the areas in which cultivation is permitted, and to license cultivators. The board continues to note that the control measures in place under some existing programs in different jurisdictions fall short of these requirements, and encourages all governments in jurisdictions that have approved a plan to implement such programs to fully implement the provisions provided for in the single convention, which are aimed at ensuring that stocks of cannabis produced for medical use are reserved for the patients for whom they are prescribed and not diverted into illicit channels. As far as the regulated markets for non medical use of cannabis are concerned, the board has always maintained that these are clearly in violation of article foresee general obligations of the 61 Convention, which requires the limitation of the use of controlled substances to medical and scientific purposes. we must look at the ultimate purpose of such markets and if they are promoting non medical consumption of cannabis they are in violation of the conventions, no matter how strictly regulated these markets are. INCB’s working closely with member states and its partners to monitor and evaluate the impacts and effects of government programs concerning medical use of cannabis. Governments for their part should ensure that the development of commercial medical cannabis programs does not result in the de facto legalization of cannabis for non medical purposes or lead to any other unintended negative impact on public health. and safety.

  1. Cannabis Education Guild, Canada, Kelly Beker

What precautionary measures is INCB taking to ensure that the monitoring of activities related to cannabis include those working in the sector, the supply chain, and the chain of custody, to prevent Member States from allowing human rights violations to unfold?

Thank you for raising this topic about precautionary measures to ensure that activities related to the cannabis sector do not allow for human rights violations. I NCB agrees that alongside the regulatory standards present in the drug control conventions, and in national laws, states parties must also protect human rights, which are inalienable and cannot be relinquished. I NCB has been cooperating with member states on developing guiding principles that will assist in the effective reporting and monitoring of the cultivation and manufacture medical cannabis thereby ensuring a harmonization of standards and regulatory control the board for its part, however, does not have the mandate from the drug control conventions to inspect or control for human rights violations in the cannabis sector or in the supply chain. Rather, INCB supports member states to adhere to the regulatory control standards that are specified in the conventions pertaining to medical and scientific use. Within this legal framework, states are afforded discretion on the design of their medical cannabis programs, but they should not in any way disregard or fail to protect the concurrent obligations that stem from international human rights instruments. Moreover, the effective adherence to drug control treaties is predicated upon the respect and protection of internationally recognized human rights. governments as well as civil society organizations are able to monitor this developing business sector medical cannabis to ensure the full protection of human rights.

 

President:  I want to thank you all for joining us in this dialogue. And I would like to say that we would welcome any inputs from civil society and we are open to discuss issues, which and your concerns At any time, so please do feel free to reach out. and of course we have our colleagues from Vienna NGO committee to be Liasing for us and we can organize further such engagements.

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