01/17/16 Doug McVay

We look ahead to National Alcohol and Other Drugs Facts Week, which is January 25-31 this year, and we hear about the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem coming up in April.

Century of Lies
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon COL011716.mp3



JANUARY 17, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. And now, on with the show.

Well folks, in a moment, we're going to hear from the United Nations, they recently held an informal meeting of the plenary to brief member states on preparations for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs, the Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem. That will be held in April of 2016. So much happening in April of 2016. Students for Sensible Drug Policy will be holding its international conference, Patients Out of Time will be holding its clinical cannabis conference, and the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, also in April of 2016, all those are on the east coast. I'm saying, April 2016, it's going to be a good time to be on the east coast.

Before we get to that, there's another event coming up much faster that I wanted to tell you about, and that is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Now, you can tell already that I wasn't involved in this, because: drugs and alcohol? Excuse me, the term is "Alcohol and Other Drugs." It's a useful phrase. Alcohol and other drugs. Really, it's alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, because tobacco is also a drug, but your tolerance develops so quickly to tobacco that most people after a short time of using the stuff don't realize that they're getting sort of high. Well, if you smoke an occasional cigar, you might notice that sort of sick feeling that you get when you've had a little too much of that cigar, or maybe you started a second. Well, that sick feeling is the high. Why anyone would want that, I don't know. I'm the child of two tobacco users, and I really hated it when I was growing up, so maybe that influences how I feel about tobacco these days.

Anyway, I digress. National Alcohol and Other Drugs Facts Week is an event, a national health observance for teens, that NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, promotes. Its slogan is "Shatter The Myths About Drugs." At the NIDA website, which is DrugAbuse.gov, you can find a link for plenty of information. Now, if I was a parent or grandparent, and I knew that my kids were going to be given a week's worth of indoctrination into the government's attitude toward drugs -- and alcohol -- then I think I'd want to get involved. There's a resource I work on called Drug War Facts, DrugPolicyFacts.org or DrugWarFacts.org. Go to that website and you can find some alternative information. Really, you can find a lot of government and professional peer-reviewed information, but it's not the sort of thing that they might want to talk about.

They'll even have a day when you can ask, the National Chat Day, when high school students and middle school students can ask questions of actual NIDA experts. I'm sure some of those questions are going to be the usual thing: what's this I hear about marijuana and IQ, what about edibles? Then again, there are some other things people should be asking about. I understand that prescription drug abuse is on the rise. I understand that pain is a real condition and that the real problem is we don't know how to treat pain adequately. I understand that, for people who are injecting drugs, if they can get clean, safe equipment, then they won't spread AIDS. We finally have the ability to fund, at the federal level, syringe exchange programs. So, what can we do to promote syringe exchange in our communities? Heroin maintenance works for people who can't stay on methadone. Heroin maintenance is in use in other countries. Why can't we have it here? Syringe exchange is good, but a supervised consumption facility where there are nurses and trained medical staff available to help when there's an overdose -- that kind of thing is really important. It's a health saver, it's a life saver. They do it in other countries. Why can't we do it here? How can we do that here? Not "why can't we?" but "how do we make it happen?"

Now those are the kinds of questions these NIDA experts need to be asked. Really, these are the kinds of questions that our legislators need to be asked. And young people, high school students who are just turning 18, who are just about at the age where they're going to go out there into the real world and be confronting these things, who are just about the age when they're going to be able to register and vote for those elected fools on the Hill who are going to decide all this stuff. Some people are concerned that anything other than "Just Say No" would be inappropriate for young people who haven't yet graduated high school, and all I can say is, really? Then you are sending these people out into the world horribly ill-prepared. We have to do more. And part of that is not just letting NIDA push "drugs and alcohol," because oh, alcohol's so different. No, it's not. Seriously, that's a very good question that these experts should be asked. Why on earth are you calling this "drug and alcohol facts week" when it should be "alcohol and other drugs"? I mean, why are *you* folks creating this artificial distinction between alcohol on the one hand, and illegal substances on the other? Because they're all drugs. But that's NIDA.

I mean, it's not like NIDA and Dr. Nora Volkow, their director, don't realize that it should be alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Here's Nora Volkow speaking about this year's Monitoring The Future Survey, and its findings on tobacco and e-cigarettes.

NORA VOLKOW: We have seen, in daily smoking, regular smoking, among 10th graders, close to a 20 percent decrease from one year to the next. So as a result of that, for the first time since we started this survey in 1975, we're seeing in 12th graders and also in 10th graders that the regular use of a cigarette smoking is lower than the regular use of marijuana smoking. Which actually reflects these very significant reductions in cigarette smoking, whereas the rates of marijuana smoking among teenagers are remaining high and both very stable.

One of the questions that has arisen is, what is driving such very significant reductions in cigarette smoking, and one of them is of course that prevention messages. But another one is that we're seeing a wide diversity of products that are now accessible for teenagers to take nicotine. And so, for example, the electronic cigarettes is a new technology that allows the delivery of nicotine, and we're seeing rates of e-cigarette use actually on a monthly basis higher than cigarette smoking. And that is true for the 10th and the 12th graders. And this is of concern, because it's leading us to losing some of the very positive ground on the prevention of the use of nicotine to cigarette smoking, which now may be taken by electronic cigarettes. Since these are new devices, and they, actually we really do not know the extent for example, which is an area of concern, to which kids that are initiating use of nicotine through electronic cigarettes will then transition to cigarette smoking. We don't know that.

But certainly, the rates that we're seeing right now, which we actually just started to survey them last year, are very high. For the first time, we asked kids, when they are taking electronic cigarettes and this happened because we saw such high rates last year, but we didn't know actually are they taking it with nicotine. So this year, the survey gives us data, and it shows that at least 60 percent of teenagers think that they are taking these e-cigarettes just for flavoring. Twenty percent say they are taking it in order to consume nicotine, and out of, in 8th graders, 13 percent say they don't know what they are taking.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA, talking about tobacco, e-cigarettes, and the 2015 Monitoring The Future Survey. Well, now let's get on with the rest of the show. I promised you we were going to talk about the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs, which comes up in April of 2016, and we shall. Just a few weeks ago, there was an informal meeting of the plenary to brief member states on preparations for the UNGASS. We're first going to hear the presentation from the delegate for the European Union.

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION DELEGATION TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN NEW YORK: Thank you, Mr. President, thank you for organizing this briefing, as well as Ambassador Shamaa, for the information provided this morning. We appreciate that you keep member states well informed in New York on the ongoing work for the preparation of UNGASS. We are satisfied that the molarities of the roundtables were agreed last week in Vienna, and we will participate and engage actively.

We believe that inviting relevant international and regional bodies with recognized expertise in the field of drugs could enrich the debate. We consider UNGASS 2016 as a key opportunity for the international community to take stock of the achievements of the international drug control system to date, to elaborate on the immense challenges that remain in the global, national, and local response to the world drug problem, and to find feasible, operational, and sustainable solutions for the long term within the framework of the international treaties.

I would like to recall the most salient elements of the UN, its members states, priorities for this special session. Our position was further developed in the statement delivered in Vienna on December 9th. Drug policy should be based on an integrated, balanced, and evidence-based approach. Drug policies have proved to be the most effective when they strike the appropriate balance in a coordinated manner between supply and demand reduction measures. The current international framework, which is sufficiently flexible to accommodate both national and regional drug policies, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are the cornerstones of addressing the world drug problem. I would like in this regard to recall our commitment in favor of the proportionality of sanctions, and our stern opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, including for drug related crimes.

Access to risk and harm reduction measures should be warranted, as such measures have proven effective in reducing the number of direct and indirect drug related deaths, and notably blood borne infectious diseases associated with drug use.

Finally, the recognition of the role of civil society and the scientific community in formulating, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating drug policies, brought an integrated participation of civil society in all aspects of UNGASS, will be critical for its success. We are looking forward to the zero draft outcome document reflecting all the inputs provided, including ours. I will conclude by reiterating our commitment to engage and participate in the preparation for UNGASS 2016, and I would like to ask Ambassador Shamaa first, if your presentation will be available in the UNGASS website, and second, how confident are you on a successful outcome in the next meetings in Vienna? I thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the delegate for the European Union, addressing in informal meeting of the plenary to brief member states on preparations for the UNGASS, UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, which is coming up in April of 2016. You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.Net, and I am your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, let's hear the Mexican delegate. By the way, all translations are being provided by the United Nations.

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DELEGATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN NEW YORK: Mexico places great importance on the coherence of the United Nations system. We are convinced that only through dialogue and cooperation among all actors that we will be able to successfully address the new realities and the new challenges that arise in connection with the world drug problem.

That is why we recognize the presence here today in New York of the board of UNGASS responsible for the conference preparations. This recognizes I think the importance of strengthening the United Nations system in this regard. We should emphasize that UNGASS 2016 will be a very high level international forum on this topic, at the highest level possible, and this will take the shape of a special session of the General Assembly and not a regular session of the CND. So, the results here cannot be business as usual, if I could put it that way. The member states have agreed on participation being at the highest possible level.

UNGASS should achieve consensus, consensus that responds to the new challenges that we are facing, and a response that offers each country an opportunity to implement its own national policy to counter drugs and addictions. In this final stretch of preparations, we need to ensure that ideas are translated into concrete proposals that contain comprehensive strategies. We trust that the CND will make progress in the drafting of a substantive document, a document that will respond to the concerns of all member states.

In order to achieve sustainable development and greater coherence within the United Nations system, we must use a cross-cutting approach, the approach that is embodied in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in worldwide drug policy. This approach should also include, of course, provisions for the full respect of human rights and gender equality. We reiterate the importance of the process being supported and led by the General Assembly. It should include the voices and views of the entire international community. We emphasize our full confidence that this will be a comprehensive, inclusive, and open exercise, an exercise that also respects the participation of other United Nations entities, as well as civil society and other relevant actors.

Mister President, the meetings that have been held in New York in the lead-up to UNGASS are very valuable for all delegations. We would underscore the importance of the meeting held by the Deputy Secretary General in November with the presence of a number of UN entities, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, WHO, UNAIDS, the United Nations University, and the United Nations Development Programme. We take note of future meetings that are to be held here in New York, and we would call for the continuation of this dissemination of information by the CND and by the UNGASS Board.

Taking advantage of this very special spirit of collaboration between your office and the Board, and consistent with your mandate to support this process, we would request that the presentations that are being made today, as well as the document containing the elements that were prepared by the Board, be circulated to all delegations here in New York. Similarly, we would call for, when the Board does issue a text, for example, the zero draft of the outcome document and other subsequent documents, that they be circulated to our delegations, so that we are kept duly informed, so that all member states are duly informed of the steps in the process.

Finally, Mister President, we would like to ask the following: Do you think that in the week of 11th of January, that we will already have a zero draft by that time, so that we can begin the process of negotiating the text? Thank you very much, Mister President.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the Mexican delegate addressing the plenary, an informal meeting of the plenary, to brief member states on preparations for the UNGASS, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs, coming up in April 2016.

We will of course be talking a lot more about that UNGASS in the coming weeks, and hopefully we will be able to give you some of the audio from that discussion. Personally, I'll be at the Patients Out of Time conference in Baltimore, Maryland, coming up in April of 2016, but hopefully I'll be able to make the short trip up to New York so I can visit the UNGASS. I'll at least be talking to some of the people from civil society, and my fellow drug policy reformers, who are there.

Now finally, we have the delegate from Colombia, again, speaking to that informal meeting of the plenary, a briefing on the UNGASS. Nations like Mexico and Colombia and Portugal have been leading the way toward discussion of drug policy reform at the international level, and the possible revision of the drug treaties. Again, all translations provided by the United Nations.

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DELEGATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF COLOMBIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN NEW YORK: Thank you very much. Thank you, President, Ambassador Shamaa for your report, and first of all I should like to congratulate you and I would like to express gratitude to the President of the General Assembly for the importance that you have given to the participation of all member states in the UNGASS preparations. You have demonstrated excellent and able leadership in this regard and in holding these informative briefings. You have been more than available to meet with member states, member states who are not represented in Vienna, and this gives us, gives all parties a possibility to know firsthand what the status of the preparatory process is, and as Ambassador Shamaa has said, your presence in Vienna also, I think, gave you the big picture of the entire process, and conveying this to member states and this is also very important.

I would like to thank you as well for the, your involvement in the substantive issues that are under discussion, and I think this is what the European Union and Mexico's representatives were referring to. These substantive issues and the structure, these are very important points. It's obvious that at this time I think to mention two points that are of interest to our delegation. First, the negotiation of the outcome document for UNGASS, and second the organization of UNGASS and the roundtables. With regard to the final document, the outcome document, our delegation in Vienna is taking part, as Ambassador Shamaa said, as are many delegations, in the process of drafting this document.

We would like to underscore the quality of that document and the contributions that have been made. There, too, a number of countries and regional groups have contributed and we are sure that their views have been taken into account, and in this way the document will reflect, fully reflect, the debates and discussions that have been held as part of the preparatory process, and we are sure that that will continue until such time as the outcome document, or the zero draft, is produced.

You mentioned the inputs, the substantive inputs that have been made. We believe that these are very relevant, and that have been promoting debate on the drug policies that have yet to produce results, that have not been successful in the past, and this I think is worthy of further review and discussion. For example, in the areas of public health, criminal justice, health care, and policies and measures to achieve greater coordination and coherence within the United Nations system. I am sure that all member states believe, and are aware of the importance of, UN system-wide coherence.

This document, we hope that you have talked about this document and the focus on its content, and we are wondering about the structure of the document, particularly in reference to the five issues that will be discussed in the roundtable. This was proposed by the Board. The Board's proposal for the elements paper mentioned these five areas. This was mentioned in the document in the wake of the meeting held on 9 December. In reference to Resolution of the, 58-8 of the CND, we see many provisions indicating the importance of a results-oriented document.

With regard to the meeting we held in November, which we entitled the Cartagena Dialogue, there were some 26 countries, from three continents. More than 80 officials from academia and civil society also participated in this meeting. Colombia and Switzerland as well as Ghana and Mexico were present at the meeting and having organized it, and there were also civil society representatives in attendance at the meeting. Ambassador Shamaa referred to the quality and the diversity of these events, and of the discussions, and we are sure that that trend will continue as the President -- the PGA has already announced. The Inter-Parliamentary Union will possibly be having a meeting with the civil society representatives and this would further feed into the discussions.

Those who have taken the floor before me have also spoken about the importance of this preparatory process towards what will be an historic event, and an event that marks your presidency of the General Assembly, sir. We would like to thank you very much for the document containing the information about the preparatory process and the organization of the roundtables, and thank you as well, Mister President, for the information provided on the CND meeting in March, with regard to the panelists, and I also express my gratitude for having convened this informative session for us. And I think that the idea of having briefings for the countries that do not have representation in Vienna is an excellent one, and my country will continue to contribute to ensure that these sessions, special session in April next year is a successful one. Thank you, sir.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the Colombian delegate discussing the preparations for the UNGASS, speaking at an informal meeting of the plenary of the United Nations, briefing member states on preparations for the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem. That will be held in New York City in April of 2016. There's an unprecedented level of civil society involvement in this UNGASS. Will it help? Only time is going to tell, but we have to try. As it is, we have seen a great deal of support for human rights and moving harm reduction and human dignity to the forefront. At the same time, we do have nations -- like Russia, like Saudi Arabia, like Iran, like China -- which still push for an outdated, outmoded, and truly horrendous style of drug control. It's possible that April of 2016 will see the beginning of a process to really reform drug policy at the international level. Again, we have to try.

And well folks, that's it for today. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Drug War Facts is on Facebook, please give its page a like. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts. We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.