State Drug Laws and U.S. Foreign Policy
Professor of Political Science, Davidson College; Former Director for Western Hemisphere Regional Initiatives, National Security Council
President, BR McCaffrey Associates LLC; Former Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy
Deputy Washington Bureau Chief, Time Magazine
Experts discuss trends in U.S. drug policies and their implications for foreign policy.
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CALABRESI: ... and the effect on U.S. foreign policy.
We are fortunate today to have two experts, who I'll introduce in a moment. First, a few housekeeping notes, which you're all, I'm sure familiar with.
The most important thing to note at the beginning is, though this was advertised as off the record, we have agreed to do it on the record. So this meeting is on the record. Everything you say can and will be held against you.
But it's an important discussion that we -- we feel most usefully could be on the record and a contribution to the broader discussion, so please note that.
As you see in your handout, there's a variety of courtesies. Please turn off your electronic devices. If you're called upon to ask a question, please identify yourself; no need to stand, since we're at the table.
We have two speakers today, with whom you're well acquainted; Professor Russell Crandall of Davidson College, a former director at the National Security Council in the Office of Western Hemisphere Regional Initiatives, and of course, General Barry McCaffrey, president of McCaffrey Associates, former director, under Bill Clinton, of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and, of course, the famous leader of the 24th ID in the first Gulf War.
CALABRESI: That's right.
So it may be best to begin with a quick overview of the changes in U.S. domestic drug policy, so that we're all on the same page when discussing the extent to which and the ways in which they may or may not be affecting U.S. foreign policy. It -- there's been quite a lot of change, obviously, in the -- in the last few years. I'll run through a couple and then, perhaps, some of our guests can -- can -- can add to it.
The first and most obvious is the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington State; a fairly recent development, so it may be a little early to try and gauge the effects that that's having overseas.
The administration, further, has said it will not prosecute banks that do business with licensed pot businesses in Colorado and Washington, and also has said it won't interfere with those state experiments.
The longer term trend of medical marijuana legalization, obviously, more likely to already be having an effect overseas. The Obama administration has, of course, itself been pursuing more liberalized drug policy, drug courts, the sentencing issues on crack cocaine. And both taken together, it's a marked change in direction the drug policy we all grew up with.
But why don't I start by asking General McCaffrey to make a few comments and -- and say what you think the overall effect of these changes are, General?
MCCAFFREY: Well, (inaudible), I'm glad to be -- join Russell and talk to him about some of these issues.
Just by way of background, I spend probably a third of my time dealing with domestic drug policy, mostly from prevention, education and treatment. I'm on the board of directors of the National Association of Drug Courts. Did not start with Obama; started with Clinton. We started with a dozen; we got it to 1,000 before Clinton left office.
There's now almost 3,000 drug courts. We just had our annual conference in Anaheim. There were 5,000 people there. We got 215 veterans' treatment courts; it's clearly moving in the right direction. That and A.A. and N.A. are the two magic pieces of domestic drug policy. They're not adequate, but they're just contributing.
I spend a lot of time at the National Institute of Drug Abuse and SAMHSA and others who have influence on policy. I try and stay in touch with ONDCP. They've lost a considerable amount of clout in the last few years. And I'm very much engaged at a state level, with drug treatment organizations in particular.
There's around 22 million of us that have some level of substance abuse disorder, poly-drug abuse, alcohol's almost invariably involved, the most dangerous drug, arguably, in America.
And -- and -- and, by the way, just as sort of a backing off the whole issue; domestic drug abuse has gone down dramatically since 1979. It's probably half of what is was before and, depending on the institution you're looking at, the Armed Forces have gone from significantly impaired by drug abuse in the late '70s, to where, now, we're testing positive, one, two percent, et cetera.
So, you know, there's (sic) been a lot of things moving in the right direction. What hasn't moved in the right direction is -- and I tell people, if you want to understand drug -- the -- the drug addiction problem, look at your 8th graders. And if you see significant and rising rates of drug abuse -- the most dangerous drugs in America, by the way, is an 8th grader binge-drinking beer, smoking pot and using ecstasy.
That's sort of a triumvirate. And if you add in mental health disorders undiagnosed and then flash forward 10 years in your community, that's going to be the shape of what your social workers, your court system, your hospital emergency rooms with see. They'll see increasing rates of drug abuse.
So for 13 years, adolescent drug use went down, starting in the Clinton administration. For four years, it's gone up. The primary cause is -- has been the growing normalization of the use of marijuana. And, you know, I -- I'll give a talk in Denver and there'll be -- I'm -- I'm going to make these numbers up; 400 medical marijuana places. Los Angeles, 8 or 900; nobody really knows.
So the widespread proliferation of medical marijuana, which the message has to be, if it's medicine, how could it be dangerous, so I think that's the problem. We should expect to see that trend continue.
I guess the only other thing is -- and I'll defer to Russell and many of you in the room are lifelong experts; but normally, I won't take part in a program like this, because I tend to end up being -- being (inaudible) idiot general who doesn't understand that if we open the doors to the prisons and let all the nonviolent drug users out and legalize, not just marijuana.
That's a stalking horse for a more Darwinian approach, in which drugs in general are viewed as not my problem, my community. It's somebody else; it's black people, brown people, poor people, west coast people, somebody besides me. If we just did that, the problem would go away and we'd save billions of dollars.
One of the most alienating things I say to the drug legalization community, and I'll just toss this on the table so you can think about it, is the general statement; nobody in America gets arrested, prosecuted and jailed for the possession of illegal drugs.
Now, where it is, for example, the federal system; I think the general guidelines are -- Department of Justice is here; you probably had 200 kilograms on you when we arrested you, though as a general statement, that just doesn't happen.
And nonviolent drug offenders means people selling methamphetamines, doing street prostitution, breaking into your house, et cetera. So some of the -- the language on ending the War on Drugs is so riddled with inaccuracies and so harmful, I would suggest, to our future public health policy that it's mind-boggling.
And on that nuanced uncertain note...
MCCAFFREY: ... let me end my remarks.
CALABRESI: Thank you; excellent.
So -- so -- so, just summarizing that, it sounds like cross currents. On the one hand, you've got drug abuse going down; on the other hand, you've got marijuana use going up. Russell Crandall, can you -- can you summarize your sense of the way those trends have rippled out across our borders?
I've seen a variety of different reports on the effects, just on the -- the marijuana issue alone, with regard to cultivation of marijuana, other people following suit or the debate opening up among policymakers in other countries.
CRANDALL: Yeah, yeah; sure, sure.
CALABRESI: If you can run down a little bit of what's known so far about the effects of the...
CRANDALL: OK, yes, sure. Thanks, Massimo.
Certainly, I just have one clarification to reinforce that I am a Davidson College professor, since we're on the record, and not an administration official. I left the administration three years ago, so please, if you do quote me or anything, (inaudible) I should have worn patches or something...
CALABRESI: Speaking directly from the brain of President Barack Obama.
CRANDALL: And -- and I also plead humility, in that I know the kind of collected wisdom, insights on drug policy around this table. I -- you know, forgotten in five minutes infinitely than I could imagine in my career, so I plead humility and, if anything, look forward to all your comments when we get to Q&A.
I thought, well, if anything, maybe I -- I could point out some ironies -- controversy, just to -- to get our discussion going. And I think, in doing that, I thought -- and I think General McCaffrey, yesterday, when we were conversing, indicated that we might be, you know, one of a handful of people who've actually read the 2013 ONDCP strategy; right?
Which I -- I -- I couldn't sleep for, you know, nights before it came out and it's (ph) just the expectation...
MCCAFFREY (?): ... Kelly's (ph) mother (ph) was another one.
CRANDALL: And it -- but it -- it is -- it is interesting that, you know, if we -- if we are looking for -- for ironies, that one operation highlighted -- and I don't know if -- if -- if -- if you heard about this; you probably didn't. Operation -- this is in the fall of -- of 2012; Operation Mountain Sweep.
It's a seven -- seven-state, two-week long campaign to eradicate illicit marijuana plots in public lands. I think Director Kerlikowske, your esteemed successor, was -- visited one of the -- I think it was in El Dorado National Forest in California.
And over the two-week operation, according to ONDCP, there were over -- close to 800,000 plants that were eradicated, with a street value of roughly $1.6 billion. A month later, including one of the states, Washington, as you all know, which was part of the -- the seven-state mountain sweep; there was the vote to -- to legalize marijuana.
So, again, for -- for -- for ironies that the national strategy has a highlight on what it contends is a step forward on the War on Drugs, at the same time that in almost geographically identical areas of the country, voters are -- are opting for something entirely different. And so, I think that's -- it -- it -- I was struck -- and there's so much kind of good news, I think, as -- as you mentioned the drug courts; there's a lot of innovation.
It surely isn't your father's drug war at home. And I think it's -- you know, finally, we -- it's belated, but we've -- we've -- we've turned the corner and we're talking much more frankly, much more empirically about finding these -- these solutions, despite the fact that we still have -- we have all these great answers, we have all these programs and we have drug courts; we still have a drug scourge.
We still have a -- a -- a harrowing problem that does devastate our communities, from Vermont and heroin to Wilkes, North Carolina and meth. And you don't have to throw a stone very far into -- especially, I think, in the type of -- of economy we are in, in a -- a divided economy; a -- a -- a stratified economy that we -- we fight these communities, despite the -- the broader good news that, compared to the '70s or something, things have -- have gotten better.
And that leaves me with one question. You know, how -- do -- how -- do we now have it all figured out? Do we actually know what you need to do and we just need more of it? Or, if -- if we have been doing all the right things in recent years, why do we have -- continue to have so many problems?
Why do we continue to have new problems; say heroin, if -- if -- if -- if the solutions are out there? Or is it simply, while it's just -- it's an inextricable, you know, part of our culture, of our habits that kind of resign us to this -- this phenomena that -- that is so devastating, we all know?
In terms of the international side, and for me, if the -- the -- the bias that -- that filters all through -- through Latin America, I think there are some other ironies. One, I feel a little bit sorry for President Obama. I recall he was blindsided at the Assembly of the Americas, Cartagena in the spring of -- of 2012.
President Santos of Colombia, other Latin leaders kind of talking what appeared to be in a courageous talk on a new alternative path for the War on Drugs in the region. And out of that came this agreement that the OAS -- and again, you probably have not read this. If you've read it, that -- that might -- may mean, you know, that you are a drug war junkie. But the OAS would produce a report with kind of alternative scenarios; how might this be done differently?
What's amazing, and again, you can just pull this off the Web, but to read the scenarios and to see that they're -- in fact, I was expecting that -- that these would be radical departures. Let's say is it legalization, is it decriminalization? (Inaudible) no mas of drug war as usual, more militarized, interdiction-based. And, in fact, they're -- these are quite conservative. They even make the ONDCP document seem kind of radical by comparison.
So I -- again, I think it might have been politically expedient for the Latin American leaders, Santos in particular, to (ph) appear courageous on the drug issue, even though Obama, where there's been a lot of domestic innovation, sort of got hit as sort of more of the status quo agent, so maybe -- maybe good politics for -- for -- for -- for Santos.
And just to wrap up, I think part of it is the fact that -- and the OAS report recognizes this; that there's simply not an appetite in Latin America for a significant shift towards legalization, even pot. In the case of Uruguay, what -- you know, of course, that -- that recently legalized.
It's still a net negative; I think maybe even two-thirds in the last poll I saw of Uruguayans not wanting to legalize part, with that fear of becoming another Amsterdam or becoming, dare we say, another Denver. That's as close as I get to drug war humor.
But, OK. So, I -- I -- I -- I think one, you know, last question that I -- I pose for -- for you all is, if we are kind of innovative, if we are adapting on the domestic front, and it -- and it looks good in terms of our willingness to kind of -- to finally cover great (ph) policies that work, even if they -- even if it used to appear a little bit funky; what are we doing on the -- the international side, the interdiction side? Is it still just simply spray, as usual? Is it still simply interdict and bust labs, as usual?
And my worry is that we've simply done this for so long that even if you have a much more liberal pot policy in the U.S. throughout, you know, with much more legalization; that we would still be busting labs and interdicting and dealing with the international component in a way that kind of we -- we've done since the -- the mid, late 1980s.
(UNKNOWN): Can I ask?
CALABRESI: So we -- we -- we -- have treated commitments with regard to drug policy that we're now, in one degree or another, in violation of.
Are -- as somebody who is anything but expert in this, do we lose leverage bilaterally because of our current position with regard to those treaties? Or were they always essentially fuzzy international law that never really bound the action on the ground?
What's -- what -- what has been the effect, if any, on our ability to project the policies we want overseas by our apparent contravention of our own treaty on the issue?
CRANDALL: Yeah, that's a -- it -- it's a great action. I -- and again, I think you've been talking to INL and other people who -- right now, who are sort of involved with this on the policy side, so they have a much better sense than I do of actually how it's -- it's -- it's working itself out.
But I do remember, back when I was in the administration, the case of -- off Bolivia and sort the Evo Morales government coming out and saying OK; we want to kind of change, you know, the -- the status that coca has and so we can industrialize, kind of coca in the country.
And -- and our -- you know, this is just U.N., kind of all these different kind of conventions that simply can't -- can't be. And it's not us; it's the international community doing this. Now, jump forward, so it's -- if -- if we're looking for consistency, we're not going to find that.
Is this something what (ph) normally we -- we have relied upon to kind of why there's a consensus about sort of how to do this type of stuff? Absolutely. Now, whether are going to point out the fact that, with these developments, that -- that we're sort of out of kilter; I just don't know.
And -- but again, I think for most of it, at least in Latin America, because there is -- the -- the Brazilians are worried about cocaine and kind of its -- its -- its -- its -- its variance (ph) (inaudible) Chile's (ph); because of -- of -- that they're, kind of with their increasingly consumer societies, and (ph) all of the -- the -- the nasty baggage that comes with that; that I think they're going to be kind of less concerned about any imminent (ph) sentences (ph) and still more concerned about some -- some of what we're (ph) just what's happening to their -- their society.
CALABRESI: And problems (ph) they're facing on the ground.
CALABRESI: General, in -- in that regard, with the sort of more domestic focus, it does seem as if we're flying a bit blind with the changes that are brought about by these experiments in the States.
I've seen some reports that there -- you can draw a connection between the increasing liberalization of marijuana policy and the increasing supply of heroin into the growing market here in the US, in some ways fueling heroin -- the traditional marijuana growers, especially in Mexico, seeing prices collapse, and shifting their crops to heroin and that, in some way, creating a more robust market here.
Is it your sense from the drug control community that that is a trend? What do we know about unintended consequences from -- of that sort; economic and market consequences?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, one observation I -- and I'm here and there's several at the table that are really experts on dealing with drug addiction, but when you look at the U.S. population, 307 million of us; overwhelmingly, we don't use drugs. We don't abuse alcohol, we don't smoke cigarettes.
The trends were steadily moving in the right direction, all of which have started to reverse, I might add, in the last few years. So that's one observation.
The second one is, when it comes to drug addiction, we don't care what drug you're using. Now, if you're a heroin addict and you're buffering your, you know, drug addiction, or even worse, methamphetamines and you're -- you're coming off a meth tweaking incident for 21 days with almost no sleep and you're using alcohol to buffer, we really don't care which drug you're -- you're using.
If you're a heroin addict and we get you on methadone maintenance and we're drug-testing you once a week, you have to worry about the guy moving to cocaine. What we care about is do you encounter devastating impact on your life in legal, social, medical and work-related areas of your existence.
Those of you who have encountered drug addiction -- I'm in and out of treatment centers all over the country all the time; it is abject misery. Now, when you look at U.S. trends in drug abuse, the -- and you asked me about what are the top 20 things you want to talk about or worry about, the last one would be Central American domestic drug policy.
If you want to influence 70,000 heroin addicts in Baltimore; that's not the way to go about it. What we -- and, by the way, when you look at recent drug trend, what we had was a 500 percent increase in diverted legal narcotics, so synthetic opiates actually became this huge cause celeb.
Methamphetamine skyrocketed; the worst drug of abuse we encountered, massive organic brain damage over the course of a year. That's now plummeted, cocaine use plummeting, crack cocaine use in the black community plummeting, but that doesn't make us any happier if you're just moving to different drugs of abuse.
So -- so I think that's something to take into account. So the notion that, for example, that if we legalized marijuana, we'll run the Mexican criminal organizations out of business is such infantile thinking, it's beyond belief.
These are criminal organizations. They're not ideological; they're trying to make money so they're in prostitution, they're in migrant smuggling, they're in bank robberies, they're -- and if they can't make money off marijuana, which I dispute will happen either.
MCCAFFREY: And you look at the other sources -- by the way, drug producing nations -- another thing to take into context when you're talking about Latin America, a major drug-producing nation in the world is the United States. We produce huge amounts of marijuana, ecstasy; even though it may be, you know, Mexican cartel activity, methamphetamine production now tends to be mega-labs, not micro-labs.
And you know, the Netherlands is a major drug-producing (ph) nation (ph). Canada, with THC-content marijuana up, you know, 25 percent and higher, trading at kilogram per kilogram for cocaine. So, drug-producing nations is not the way to distinguish this. It's not their drugs and our consumption.
CALABRESI: Um hmm.
MCCAFFREY: By the way, if you're looking for high rates of drug abuse; you want to see skyrocketing rates of drug abuse, look at Mexico, where the trends are all like that, where ours were coming down.
So I've always been very uncomfortable about the notion that, you know, it's a simple -- I was on this global program -- started to tell Massimo before we started; most asinine program I was ever on. It was a debate in Oxford.
My opening lines were -- I was in California, on Microsoft video and I said the only reason I'm even on this show is because you paid me $25,000 to get me to take part in this. It was just complete nonsense.
But my friend, Vicente Fox -- which (ph) -- there were several former heads of state on and Vicente came on; he said poor Mexico's the victim of the United States. Here we live in their shadow. They're all using drugs; therefore it gets drawn through our country. We produce no drugs.
Wow; wow. Mr. Fox, for God's sakes, you know, most of the heroin in the United States doesn't come out of Afghanistan. Amir (ph) was in Afghanistan as an advisor, I guess really on ore (ph). Kansas wheat fields of opium poppy, as far as the eye could see, in the southern provinces in particular.
But most of our heroin comes out of Colombia and Mexico; never mind methamphetamines, marijuana, et cetera. So, I don't know. I -- this is not a central debate to me. The militarization of U.S. drug policy in Latin America, in my view, is sheer nonsense.
If you've been in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Columbia, particularly 10 years ago, when it was worth your flipping life to be a rancher, trying to get out to your property and, you know, the notion that we would say, well, the Colombia National Police are being militarized by the -- by the United States was just completely outrageous, in my view.
By the way, Colombia has gone from -- on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 being the worst; it's gone from 104 down to 20. The last time I was there, my security detachment was a dozen CNP officers. When I left office, I went -- flew in at the end of my tenure; they winged a mortar round in (ph) the runway as I landed. And I had 4,000 people in my security detachment.
CALABRESI: Right, right...
CALABRESI: ... complicated series of dynamics that have -- have brought about that change, of course.
Did you have a comment on drug war, quickly, and then we'll open up the table?
CRANDALL: Yes, sure, just brief -- brief; just to respond to the General's comments. And I -- I do think, if we look at domestic consumption, all of these effects that -- it's absolutely correct that kind of what happens in Honduras, what happens in Peru, or you know, coca going -- if it's (ph) up, down, is peripheral, at -- at best.
And I think, just the example of cocaine, again, if you read the ODCP strategy, all the bells and whistles that cocaine consumption went past five, seven, eight years has dropped by half, but it doesn't mention -- so they -- yes; this is an Andean (ph) success story, lets imagine, but it doesn't say anything else about, sort of pot, heroin, every -- going up and how much (inaudible) the fact that coke's down now. What's to say it's not going to bounce back up in the future?
But I -- and I think, more specifically, to Colombia; there's no question that if U.S. -- what started out as U.S. drug policy has been great nation-building for Columbia. And they needed a lot of nation-building. I think that's a -- a success story.
But if we kind of look at Colombia's success story as a real feather in the cap of the broader war on drugs, I'm -- I'm less convinced, because of all the shifting effects, because of the sort of cost associated. And I think one example is Bolivia, where, if you remember back in the late '80s and '90s; Bolivia was ground zero in the war on drugs, in terms of coca eradication.
They were the INL, State Department big presence, DEA; well, that's all over with the new, kind of anti-war on drugs Morales administration. So Bolivia is not -- as we see it, kind of part of the war on drugs and nobody has batted an eyelid.
So if -- if -- if -- if it's OK for Bolivia to sort of be out of the orbit; well, because all the Bolivian cocaine goes to Brazil or Europe or something, do we really need to be doing what we're doing in Peru or -- yet, we don't -- we're not asking these hard questions, because we've been doing this for so long, because in some ways, it's sort of morphed into, well, you know, we've got to help the CNP just kind of deal with thugs in Columbia or something; things that I think you could make a case for independently, but are kind sharp (ph) thinking about.
And that's just the last thing I would add. I know there -- there are people, kind of inside the government right now, who are infinitely kind of more versed in all this than I is, is that my -- as amazed in my time in government; thinking OK, well, we can try and get a handle on the war on drugs, as part of sort of the President's kind of Americas portfolio.
And I think I -- I left government more confused about what we do in Latin America in the war on drugs than I came in, you know, which can be (inaudible) if you even (inaudible) time at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, you've got kind of western hemisphere and then you've got your counter (inaudible) people, with stovepipes and authorizations and it's amazing.
You could have a part of the Office of Secretary of Defense, a -- a -- a -- a bureau that would go down to Colombia and meet with all their kind of counterparts and people and talk about (inaudible) and tech stuff. And you go down and meet with all different people; you have no idea what the -- anybody's talking about.
But it's just, well, what are they doing? Well, they've got authorizations, they've got cash and they kind of spend it. And when they go down, certain CNP generals take them on helicopter rides and you get your helicopter rides.
And I mean is the -- the -- the...
(UNKNOWN): So, on top of all...
(UNKNOWN): On -- on top of -- on top of all of that that...
CRANDALL: ... narcotics complex, so.
(UNKNOWN): ... extraordinary complexity, we've now...
MCCAFFREY (?): ... I've got to add a data point, though.
CALABRESI: We should open it up for -- for questions. But go ahead, General.
MCCAFFREY: When you get -- when you get in a discussion of -- of the war on drugs, and it can get pretty heated if you're in Ecuador or in Colombia or in Guatemala.
(UNKNOWN): Lots at stake.
MCCAFFREY: Try (ph) to tell people -- and I don't know the current numbers, but I -- every time I went into Afghanistan, I would stop (ph) -- I would start in Islamabad. You know, the ISI would work me, the PAC (ph) military would work me, and then I'd shoot on into Kabul later on in the week.
When I started those visits into Afghanistan, there were three DEA agents in Pakistan. I think I got it up to a dozen by hammering them over the ears every time I'd come back. I'll bet you, today, in Colombia -- I'm going to make this number up; there's 20 DEA agents in Colombia.
I mean, so the notion that this is some massive military law enforcement effort is laughable.
MCCAFFREY: It just isn't there. The dollars aren't there. You know, I -- there's one of the reports here was just terrific; the Americas report. For riddled, muddled thinking, this is a classic document.
You know, of course we want poverty alleviation, violence against women; I mean all of those are genuine factors. But the notion we tell the Colombians or something that supporting their police is causing these problems, seems to me, laughable.
CALABRESI: So -- so a -- a -- a variety of already complex, nonresponsive problems that have been made more complicated and unpredictable by the introduction of legalization and liberalization of the drug policy here and a good opportunity for our experts around the table to try and help clarify what some of those effects might be.
A couple of reminders, especially for those of you who showed up a little bit after my gripping initial comments. This is not traditional council rules; it is on the record and, indeed, will be, I believe a transcript and audio will be posted to the CFR website later, so you'll want to know that as you ask your questions and engage in lively debate.
Please identify yourselves when I -- when I call on you and -- and wait -- well, you don't need to wait for a microphone, because the table's miked and we're very small.
So, why don't we start with Miss -- Ms. Realuyo?
QUESTION: I'm a professor of National Security at the Parry Center at NDU, where I actually teach terrorism and crime and the strategy on transnational organized crime, which I wanted to comment on, 'cause that actually try -- was an attempt to neutralize and convert the idea of just a drug war.
Of drug trafficking organizations to transnational criminal organizations to kind of mollify or may become a -- correctly to describe these as very agile business enterprises that we're encountering and that's why they're adjusting to the supply and demand, particularly in drug trafficking, moving out from cocaine to meth and heroin, and also going much more global than just the United States.
What we've seen, though, is because of -- and I spent a lot of time in Latin American and I just came from West Africa, which is starting to see huge flows. And I was just in Europe, earlier this past week, taking a look at, now, the huge flows of cocaine going into -- it's more -- more developed and more sophisticated, particularly Russia, so it's pretty interesting.
Talking about DEA agents; there are more going that way than south. But the bigger question is, every time we confront or, more importantly, are confronted by, as U.S. officials, going downrange, the whole question of, well, you actually legalized -- you know that's -- it's a different interpretation. And then you have to kind of school them on what's decriminalization or legalization.
QUESTION: What we see is a real inconsistency on the talking points, what the federal is doing and to confer with the -- the president in Guatemala, Pena Nieto, the day before yesterday and made some illusions to legalization in Mexico, 'cause they keep portraying themselves as the victims of our consumption.
So, if you were to sit where you used to sit, Russell, and also, General McCaffrey; what do you think is the better way, going forward, to kind of reconcile a lot of these?
We look kind of schizophrenic, in terms of -- and I think this discussion has kind elucidated that; on the federal versus state, but more importantly, the -- kind of the view from the -- the outside world of what U.S. policy really is, and is -- whether you're using euphemisms, like transnational criminal organizations or drug cartels that kind of are just in the business of making money?
CALABRESI: So how do we message our confused position?
MCCAFFREY: It's not -- it's not messaging.
CRANDALL (?): (Inaudible)
MCCAFFREY: But we are confused.
Just astonishing to me. I had a long conversation with Eric Holder, you know, and my board of directors, when I was on DCP, were -- included Joe Biden, who was sort of like the chairman of the board, both nonpartisan-bipartisan support.
We got tons of money and continue to do so, for, you know, demand reduction, prevention, education, treatment grants (ph). So, to some extent, that's all doing quite well.
But the notion that -- you know, now I sat in -- I -- 'cause I actually think what's going on is we've had about 300 people -- that's a number I artificially pegged, but 300 (ph) billionaires who've been supporting drug legalization for the last 25 years and it's been very clever, very effective.
They moved the needle very deliberately. They have fungible money; they can throw $15 million at a campaign, buy prepackaged TV ads, sue government officials for misuse of office; Lieutenant Governor, Washington. They can buy people to be on TV.
When I watched the legalization campaign and -- and -- from Seattle, the former U.S. Attorney I work with, Kay Plummer (ph), the former FBI SAC; they were all on TV, very clever ad. So it's working. We're normalizing the use of marijuana, to our peril.
We will see, without any question, in the coming decade, rising rates of poly-drug abuse among adolescents, followed by chronic addiction, for some subset of them. So I think it's a mistake in policy, driven in large part by another number I invented; maybe 15 percent of the American electorate feels so strongly about the legalization of drugs that they will vote that issue, to the exclusion of all others.
They'll vote for you or against you, if you're the sheriff, if you're a state representative, a local prosecutor. And I think politicians are saying, look; I barely made it through my last election, with four percent, I'm in office. I'm not getting in front of this train.
And that's applying to both political parties. This is not a liberal Democrat versus conservative Republican. They've all gone mute. The one name I just put on the table, Dr. Kevin Sabet, and I think CFR's got his presentation. He's a young guy, bright guy; I think University of Florida and he's out there talking about ways of understanding the drug issue.
Another one is Dr. Nora Volkow; if you want to understand what drug addiction does, go to NIDA, $800 million a year budget. They know a ton about the -- you know, the actual medical and -- and social aspects of addiction.
So, I don't know; get facts on the table. It needs to be an informed debate, but rising rates of drug abuse among adolescents will prove to be bad policy for the United States.
CALABRESI: The view from the neighborhood; do you have a question?
QUESTION: So I'll try to address some of the issues that have come up. First of all, what are we doing internationally that's different, maybe from the war on drugs, as you suggested?
And the perception is I think we were taking a much more holistic approach and -- and recognizing eradicating coca fields is not going to solve the problem in the United States and it's, frankly, not going to deal with a lot of the issues in countries such as Colombia.
So we have a holistic approach that's looking at strengthening the rule of law in justice systems, you know, throughout the -- the -- the whole chain of -- of these countries, starting with the police, which you know, you've ridden on the helicopters and seen the -- the -- the glamorous, sexy side of that.
But it also includes training prosecutors, judges, correction systems; if you don't have effective corrections, you're also -- you're not going to fix the problem either.
And we're also working on kind of exporting the drug court model. We have a -- done a lot of that in -- in Mexico. A lot of this is through OAS. And interestingly, the drug courts in Mexico also deal with alcohol abuse as well, so it -- it's a -- maybe even an improvement on -- on what we're doing here. And Colombia is now interested in looking at the drug court model as well.
QUESTION: And then we're also focusing on -- 'cause -- because, as -- as General McCaffrey mentioned, we have kind of the lead -- world's leading experts on drug addiction and -- and dealing with prevention, treating drug addiction, so we're trying to export that mileage (ph) as well, to help countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico deal with their domestic drug issues.
Because you mentioned, you know, that there's a perception that we've got a lot of answers now for dealing with the drug issue and I -- and I would never say that, you know, it can be solved. It can be...
QUESTION: ... contained and managed in a more effective way. And in Latin America, the debate is often about, well, let's -- if we legalized, you know, this will solve the problem.
Or something we've heard more in -- in recent months is let's reduce or maybe eliminate a lot of the -- the drug sentencing problems for drug users. And that is working in the United States, because we have the infrastructure, the public health, social services infrastructure to help those people once they're being diverted from the justice system.
QUESTION: A lot of countries do not have that infrastructure.
QUESTION: So it's important, if you're going to, you know, embark on an experiment like that, to think it through and have the services necessary to deal with -- with the consequences.
MCCAFFREY: I might add to -- to your statement, though -- 'cause I agree with what you said, but one of our major problems in the United States is, if you believe your own numbers -- I always start with do you believe your own numbers you're putting out?
If you think most of us don't abuse drugs -- you can include alcohol, but there's maybe 20 million plus that do have a serious substance abuse problem. It's always poly-drug abuse. Then you need treatment; science-based treatment, not nonsense treatment, outcome evidence-based treatment.
We got maybe 3-1/2 million people have access to treatment in a given year, so our capacity is de minimis. The drug courts system, even with close to 3,000, with maybe 120,000 people in treatment on a given day, say well, wait a minute. You're off by orders of magnitude, so we still have a huge way to go.
But your point still is right on target and if it's Honduras, for God's sakes, you know, the violence, the depravity, the chaos, the lack of governmental capacity in every arena is so great that it's not too useful to tell them why don't you start drug courts; that'll solve the problem.
CRANDALL: Just a -- a quick one, and those are very well taken; your -- your -- your points, so thanks. And you're sort of at the flavor, the nuance of the -- the -- the international interdiction side. It's not simply spraying plants. And that's -- I think that's to be applauded.
Marketing, messaging, I think absolutely. You know, I think if -- let's hope that, you know, the Hondurans, the Afghans kind of don't read Maureen Dowd's column...
(UNKNOWN): Chocolate overdose?
CRANDALL: ... you don't have to go to Afghanistan; you just go to Colorado...
CRANDALL: And it was so matter of fact, in the sense that this is the new reality where -- and I think part of it might be that the interdiction side is inertial. You know, it's -- it's got a lot of -- of -- of -- of years behind it and the -- the poppy (ph) just kind of popped up out of nowhere.
It wasn't that (ph), but it -- relatively speaking. And so that's out in front of, kind of conventions. It's out, sort of our international talk and we've got. And so either we keep this inconsistency and we just message it better. Oh, no, actually, you know, it's just, you know, this thought's (ph) different or some way we can get beyond that to keep this.
Or we take a step back and say OK, this should change, because it's no longer plants. It's no -- it's going to be drug courts in Colombia or something like that.
MCCAFFREY: I'd like to take the liberty...
CRANDALL: I don't know. Maybe they're already doing it (ph).
MCCAFFREY: ... liberty of asking you a question directly; flip it around a little bit on the specific subject of the conversation today, which is, you know, as somebody on the frontlines, are you seeing, overseas, specific effects and what are they, from the changing policies here, other than just sort of the specific, fine grain issue of how do we convince them to do drug courts?
But what -- what is -- what is the broad view of what the effect of liberalization here is having on our foreign policy?
QUESTION: Well, you mentioned the U.N. conventions and that's one area that I've been working on for the last several months. And the -- the charge that we're out of compliance is something that we've had to deal with.
And when you actually look at the conventions, there is a certain amount of flexibility and deference to...
QUESTION: ... sovereignty and constitutional -- when the...
QUESTION: And so we've been arguing that, because of -- of our federal system, the -- the -- number 1, the federal controlled substances act remains in effect, so from that standpoint, we are still in compliance with our treaty obligations.
Secondly, because of the constitutional principle of dual sovereignty, you have to recognize that -- that drug enforcement is predominantly a -- a state level responsibility. And so we've said that the -- and the -- the federal government has issued its guidance to federal prosecutors on how to deal with marijuana innovations at the state level.
And those -- and -- and those priorities that we have articulated are consistent with our international obligations. They (inaudible) track very closely to the aims and objectives of the 1988 treaty on -- on -- on illegal trafficking in -- in narcotics. So we have prosecutorial discretion. We have that federalism (inaudible), so that's the legal basis that we go forward with.
In terms of the politics of it, I think certainly some countries are -- are criticizing us and accusing us of hypocrisy, but that's really nothing new. And I think the -- the broader goal is to -- to say hey, these-- these treaties are the most effective form of international cooperation that we have.
We need to preserve them. We need to recognize that there is some flexibility in these treaties. There is an opportunity here to tolerate different approaches that sovereign governments are taking in order to deal with their specific problems.
And, fourthly, we want to maintain the international consensus on the transnational organized criminal drug trafficking organizations that are the cause of all the -- the violence and, in some cases, they're threatening to undermine the sovereignties (ph).
CALABRESI: Thank God for the squishiness of international law.
On the -- on the -- on the other effects, are you seeing any of the -- my colleagues are -- and I'll include myself in the category; quick to see trends where they may or may not exist. The trends -- economic trends resulting from liberalization; are they real? Are you seeing data to support that or is that largely a, you know, sort of initial reporting yet to be confirmed?
CALABRESI: We'll say drops in marijuana cultivation in Mexico as a result of liberalization in the US; is that affecting heroin cultivation and things like that?
I've seen other reports...
(UNKNOWN): I -- I think the heroin poppy cultivation is continuing to increase as the market increases. I have not seen any signs of -- I haven't seen any data either way on -- on marijuana...
CALABRESI: Any effect on cartels? There's been other reporting I've seen about the cartels, you know, losing...
MCCAFFREY: Well one of the things we're seeing, by the way (inaudible) always (ph), when you -- in terms of heroin addiction, it has gone up dramatically. I -- you know, I -- I'm -- I'm a major behavioral healthcare company.
We watched heroin addiction treatment rates plummet for 10 years in a row; now it's going back up. It's in direct relationship to incredibly enhanced DEA activity and state law. Florida was producing 94 percent of the country's diverted opiates. They changed their law; things have gotten a lot better.
So now, instead of 40 bucks for an OxyContin pill; you go to high-quality heroin out of Colombia or Mexico. So again, I'm -- our argument has always been we don't care why you're leading a drug-addicted life with these devastating consequences to your family and the community. What we want to do is address all those at the same time.
And you know, good look to you...
CALABRESI: Question from...
CALABRESI: Thank you very much for your patience.
QUESTION: I'm a Latin America specialist and have played a variety of roles in my career.
But what -- it -- it seems to me that one of the issues that we haven't discussed is the coordination of the efforts of the multiple different actors, whether it's the OAS or the Inter-American Development Bank and -- and others.
And I'm struck also that the relationship of drug production and then trafficking and so forth also has to do with kind of development economics. And one of my favorite stories is -- and this was reported by the ONDCP in one of its Andean (ph) studies that, in the case, Columbia, the farm gate price for cocoa leaf was less than the potential farm gate price for commercial, edible crops.
But there weren't farm-to-market roads to get the commercial crops to market. And we have -- we still haven't gotten to the point where we're thinking about these backward linkages on the -- the problem, it seems. And I think it would be interesting to get some -- some comment on -- on that.
And then, General McCaffrey, what happened to ONDCP? I think your -- it was to your comment, I think that it's not what it used be.
MCCAFFREY: Question I brought out and I answered (ph).
MCCAFFREY: You know, one of the studies -- Margaret's been around this issue a long time and I -- I did a study when I was South Com Commander that showed the -- the amount of money we were putting into Bolivia, if I remember the study as (ph).
And there was a direct correlation between the amount of money we spent as it increased, and the increase coca cultivation. And it turned around, because we had some Bolivian leadership; Quiroga (ph) and others, young guys who got in there and said wait; this has to be Bolivian policy from the bottom up; not U.S. policy from the bottom -- from the top down.
And they organized themselves and they said, look; we're victims of this criminal conspiracy. We're devout Catholic, hardworking, family-oriented people, which they are. That's what Bolivian families are like and they organized themselves and it turned around on a dime.
Now my friend Evo Morales is in there; things are not quite as positive, but...
MCCAFFREY: You know, I would suggest that U.S. policy has -- the older I get, the less I believe we can affect almost anything in the world, outside our own borders. You know, there just -- our ability to change the realities on the ground.
The reason Colombia looks so good isn't a billion dollars a year in planning (ph) Colombia, which was a key asset; helicopters, primarily. It's because the Colombians had courage, political will and got sick of having their young people kidnapped and held in the jungle for five years.
So you know, I always like to turn this thing around and tell Mexico, look; you're the ones with a drug problem that's skyrocketing. You're the ones with crime on the street and we ought to be willing to support them, a fellow democracy, 'cause we're in the same lifeboat with them, but the solution to these problems isn't U.S. policy.
CALABRESI: We have time for -- for one more question; please.
QUESTION: Much of what I hear and what I read on -- on -- on issues of drug policy seems to go between debates around interdiction, legalization or something in between.
What I wanted to ask you folks and -- and some people around the table can also answer this; where is the language around comorbidities with drug use? And maybe I'm asking you to read my mind, in a sense; the harm reduction aspect of all of this?
Because, for example, we went to Afghanistan and we were so focused on -- on supply reduction that we totally missed the fact that Afghan was -- Afghanistan was having a blooming HIV academic around its drug use.
And while we were busy trying to get Afghan farmers to change their production and training Afghans actually to improve their criminal justice system to interdict these issues, we were forgetting that part of their society was potentially getting eroded, certainly in a generational sense, because of this growing epidemic.
So what are we doing in Afghan, or, for that matter, in New York City in the '90s with -- with, you know crystal meth and HIV issue? Where is this arm (ph) reduction sort of comorbid debate?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think, you know -- you know, comorbidity; I thought you were going to talk primarily mental health...
QUESTION: And also sort of mental health, of course...
MCCAFFREY: ... 'cause I think that's really a huge issue. And the United States -- by the way, there's (ph) enormous importance in the government people around this table; most of my time as the National Drug Policy director -- becoming a student of NIH on it.
If you are chronically using drugs and you're 17 years old, chances are significant that you have a mental health disorder, which we might have diagnosed at 10 or 12 and might have intervened and -- and -- and dealt with it.
Conversely, if you're 15 and tried pot or crack cocaine or meth, you're going to like it, a lot. And you're going to run around telling your friends, so we get this medical model in which it spreads. And if you start using drugs and you use them until your mid-20s, you now have a mental health problem also.
So -- and yet when you -- in the U.S. government, at the federal level or state level, these two pots of money; mental health and -- and drugs are -- my principal job, according to my constituents, was fighting for drug policy money against the enemy, which was the mental health community.
I'm slightly overstating it, but not much. So I think your -- your major point is, if you want to address drug addiction, you have to take a holistic, science-based approach, which includes mental health, malnutrition, AIDS, tuberculosis, leg sores, unemployment; whatever.
To understand the drug issue, I tell you, if you're in a community -- everybody at this table; let me just offer a thought to you. Go to an A.A. meeting 10 times, or N.A. Got to a -- I take mayors into drug treatment facilities all the time and they're shocked.
They're waiting to see somebody else's people are in there. And what they're looking at is their own community. So, you know, at the end of the day, poor Honduras; God, my heart goes out to Latin Americans. Mexico and Canada; thank God we've got these two nations as neighbors.
At the end of the day, what we got to deal with is prevention and education targeted at adolescents, followed by effective, science-based drug treatment. That's what the -- that's what the issue is.
CALABRESI: Foreign policy begins at home.
Thank you very much. That's all we have time for. And thank you to the Council for organizing the...
Watch the mayor of Nuevo Laredo and the former Colombian foreign minister discuss steps Mexico and Colombia are taking to control organized crime in their countries.
This session was part of the CFR symposium, Organized Crime in the Western Hemisphere: An Overlooked Threat?, undertaken in collaboration with the Latin American Program and Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and made possible by the generous support of the Hauser Foundation, Tinker Foundation, and a grant from the Robina Foundation for CFR's International Institutions and Global Governance program.
In this transcript of the second session of the symposium on U.S.-Mexico relations, experts discuss the difficulty of "chasing ghosts" perpetrating the drug-related violence in Mexico, the spillover into border regions of the United States and governmental initiatives to address the conflict.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the National Drug Control Policy, discusses global drug policy, including a new emphasis on programs that recognize drug addiction as a disease of the brain instead of a moral failure, domestic and international trends in drug consumption, and the diversification of transnational criminal organizations.