Report on the NNOAC Second Drug Enforcement Forum

Washington, DC 

September 12, 2018

Nearly 100 attended the second Annual Drug Enforcement Forum at the ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. on September 12, 2018. Attendees included top Drug Enforcement Officers from throughout the country as well as Command Staff from ATF, FBI, DEA, HIDTA, RISS, EPA, Health Care and Addiction Intervention Professionals, representatives from State and Federal Government, Social Service Agency Heads and representatives of the corporate world.  All came together to share ideas, discuss and learn what can be done, and what is working to combat the drug crisis, particularly pertaining to the Opioid, Fentanyl and Heroin abuse that is killing more than 70,000 Americans each year.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in his presentation to the forum, stressed that his office and the President are making all efforts to confront this National Public Health Crisis.  Attorney General Sessions has increased the number of prosecuting U.S. Attorneys throughout the country and has reversed the previous administration’s policy that required that U.S. Attorneys omit key facts in plea deals in order to lessen sentences for violent drug dealers.  He stressed that the Justice Department is focused on the drug distribution from transnational criminal organizations and not the individual user.

Our Attorney General told us that U.S. Attorneys have charged more than 200 doctors for opioid over prescribing.  In 2018 they have prosecuted 76 doctors and brought cases to recover over 200 million from pharmacists and doctors involved in health care fraud related to opioid abuse.  Attorney General Sessions’s office has established a Fentanyl, Opioid Fraud and Abuse and Detection Usage Task Force to fight the crisis that has lead to a large increase in violent crime in nearly every major area of the country.

“Violence addiction and death follow the Transnational Criminal Organizations” that profit from illegal drug distribution said Sessions and even though the rate of violent crime and murder is down during the first part of 2018, law enforcement concerned with this crisis need to be out front with the public and politicians about this vicious cycle of addiction and illegal drug abuse.

The dark web, where more than 200 synthetic substances that contain opioids and/or fentanyl or other controlled substances, has to be a focus of law enforcement.  China, the largest producer of fentanyl that reaches the United States has made some strides in reducing its illicit flow to the United States but much more needs to be done the conference was told.

Attorney General Sessions committed to all members present that his office would continue to work vigorously with law enforcement, public health professionals, treatment and prevention programs to stem this vicious cycle of addiction and drug abuse.

Other speakers made these points:

  •  Fentanyl is so powerful that an amount the size of a pinch of salt can kill. If fentanyl was in a restaurant sized sugar packet it would have enough fentanyl to kill almost 500 people.  Fentanyl is dangerous if air born, not so much if it is just touched as long as it does not enter the body.  Fentanyl is often combined with heroin, K-2 spice, analgesics, and opiates.  Often the drug cartels (mostly the Senola Cartel) combine fentanyl in pill form with opioids they sell on the street and dark web.  The chemists who craft these death pills frequently change the chemical formulas in order to avoid the criminal statutes.
  • Most of the dark web pills come from China and Mexico. Asian money laundering groups handle laundering for the cartels.  The Dominicans have recently become involved in the distribution of fentanyl laced drugs.
  • Canada has a big fentanyl issue.  Denmark has an issue with fentanyl however most of Europe has yet to have a significant issue.
  • The dark web is very challenging to crack but if successful there are great rewards for law enforcement efforts.  An Iraqi was recently prosecuted in Texas for distributing fentanyl laced pills on the dark web.  He ordered the powdered fentanyl and other opioids and then pressed them into the pills he sold on the web.
  • Narcan should be available to all cops and first responders.  The number of doses of Narcan can vary widely when treating someone using fentanyl or opioids.  Narcan and other related treatments all have a shelf life and can be ineffective if exposed to heat or sometimes cold. Some police departments rotate their inventory of Narcan with EMS who use it more frequently in order to always have a non-stale dated Narcan available for their officers.
  • Several speakers emphasized that we do not have a drug overdose crisis since there is no overdose of illegal drugs.
  • Political leaders, the public, the press and our youth need to be educated about the crisis.  Public Service Announcements and a comprehensive community based program that involves law enforcement, health care, prevention and rehabilitation professionals and social service agencies must collectively work to alleviate this national epidemic.
  • Laws need to be enacted to adapt to changing synthetic drug formulas and laws strengthened to allow the criminal prosecution of drug dealers that sell illegal drugs that result in death.  Knoxville, TN has a drug related Death Task Force that has successfully prosecuted drug dealers for 2ndor 3rddegree murder in drug related deaths.  It was suggested that state criminal codes should be amended to allow the criminal prosecution of dealers who are engaged in drug trafficking so that a death related to such illegal drugs can be prosecuted even if that death was accidental.
  • Funding from Byrne JAG supports states efforts to combat criminal enterprises engaged in drug trafficking. The sharing of information within states and across state lines, using networking opportunities like the NNOAC provides and taking advantage of all the resources from HIDTA and ROCIC is a must for effective drug enforcement efforts.  The north Florida HIDTA has combined its efforts with Ocala, FL to create the Unified Drug Enforcement Task Force.  Programs like Opioid Amnesty and Operation Lifesaver along with community education and information sharing has had positive effects on the opioid crisis.
  • It was discussed that drug task forces must work in a coalition with the entire community.  You cannot simply arrest your way out of the problem.  Prevention efforts, treatment and rehabilitation efforts are all key to help stem this crisis.  Drug courts, EMS, mental health and the medical community must collectively meet and coordinate their joint efforts and share information.
  • There has been a significant rise in the number of kids placed in foster care due to neglect stemming from living in a drug household or because their parents are in jail for drug charges.  The NIC units of many hospitals are filled to capacity with opioid babies and the mental health units and drug units of many hospitals do not have the capacity to handle this crisis.  Tele-health, including tele-psychiatry, is one way to alleviate these growing populations in need of treatment.
  • The U.S. consumes 99% of the world’s Hydrocodone, 85% of the Oxy.  Six percent of the population is addicted to prescription opioids and illegal drug use is estimated to affect 10% of the population. While take back days help remove some drugs from the community and also avoid the environmental effects of those drugs going into the water systems, these programs are only a starting point.
  • This is a public health, public safety, national security issue.  Gang related violence is up and transnational criminal organizations are destroying our communities.

It is hoped that this forum leads our communities to come together.  Law enforcement needs to lead with the assistance of its partners in public health, the non-profit community, the medical, treatment and addiction community and raise their collective voice with those that control the budgets on the state and national levels to address America’s Public Health, Public Safety and National Security Crisis.

Report on the World Forum Against Drugs

Gothenburg, Sweden

By Peter F. Boyce

At the gracious invitation of our good friends, Lennart Karlsson and Anders Stolpe of the Swedish Narcotics Officers Association, I had the opportunity to attend the International World Forum Against Drugs in Gothenburg, Sweden on behalf of the NNOAC and the NNOAC Foundation.

Due to a last-minute issue with Bob Bushman’s passport, he could not attend so I filled in for him leading a panel discussion on supply reduction and making a closing statement about the NNOAC and our staunch opposition to legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. I also spoke about the opioid crisis we face here in the United States.

The conference was attended by law enforcement, health care, social science professionals, and many politicians and academics from throughout the world.  Since the World Forum took place in conjunction with the ECAD, European Unconvention on Drugs, and Mayors’ Meeting, there were many high-powered leaders from throughout the world. The theme of the conference was Preventing, Protecting and Policing to confront the many critical issues related to drug abuse throughout the world.  

All presenters were clear in their message that illicit drug markets negatively impact public safety enabling organized criminal groups that pose significant challenges to the rule of law and the integrity of free world political systems.

It was reported that in 2017 the cities of St. Petersburg and Stockholm were both affected by deadly terrorist attacks. Many in law enforcement believe there is an interconnectivity between acts of terrorism and organized criminal groups involved in the drug trade.  According to one speaker, many of the perpetrators involved in recent acts of terrorism in Europe have been low level drug traffickers and/or users themselves.

The Icelandic model to drastically reduce substance abuse was of keen interest to many at the conference.  Prevention best summarizes what Iceland has done to drastically reduce illicit drug use, particularly with its youth.  Several speakers emphasized the importance of a well-planned, comprehensive program to deliver a strongly worded message to pre-teens and their parents to prevent drug use before it starts.  Iceland’s programs emphasize family involvement in order to educate preteens before they are exposed to illicit drugs. By all reports that model has resulted in a significant reduction of drug problems in this small country.  The experts from a group known as Prevent Don’t Promote, contend that “waiting until adolescence to intervene is too late to impact substance abuse because by then the impact on drug use on the developing brain can be very challenging and, in some cases, impossible to reverse.”   

Several speakers addressed that pot legalization has become a global movement by well-funded “global elitists” who ultimately seek to commercialize drug sales just like alcohol and tobacco.  The elitists see a huge potential market for high potency cannabis in both edible and concentrated forms. These elitists and criminal enterprises believe that promoting pot legalization will open the door to other innovative illegal drugs and other deadly substances like heroin and cocaine.  Each speaker strongly disagrees with proposals to legalize pot or any other illegal substance. Many cited the United States and the alarming increase in the number of users and addicts. They theorize this U.S. problem will soon spread worldwide because of the U.S. “Experiment” with pot legalization.

One speaker expressed growing concern about the higher addiction rates among under age marijuana users and stated that those seeking legalization know from experience with the tobacco industry that if they target minors and encourage use at an early age when dependence is more likely to develop, they can reap huge profits.  This position makes sense given the kid-friendly edible pot products made to look like candy, gummy bears and sodas which already account for a large segment of the Colorado market. The World Health Organization has expressed concern about edibles and concentrates which at times have a potency rate of nearly 90%. According to this organization, the pot industry has opposed recent attempts to cap potency at 15% in Colorado.

In my presentations to the conference I strongly indicated that the NNOAC is, has been, and will be opposed to the legalization of pot and the decriminalization of any controlled substances including pot.  I stressed that we oppose medical marijuana and believe and support our FDA which bases its approval of any drug on strict medical guidelines, not on heart wrenching stories of kids with rare medical conditions.  I stressed that legalization has been a disaster and that a thriving black market has developed to ship high potency pot into states that have not legalized its sale. I emphasized supply reduction and agreed that all must work with law enforcement, the courts, social services, and the medical community to stem this crisis.

Because of the substantial number of speakers who highlighted the opioid crisis in the U.S. I chose to also address this issue in my closing remarks.  All in attendance (about 400) seem to understand that the opioid crisis is presently a mostly U.S. issue, but most agree it is just a matter of time before our crisis becomes their crisis.  All seem to understand that the violent crime they hear about in the U.S. is to a large extent caused by the rise of ruthless trans-national drug organizations who are making billions of dollars each year distributing drugs throughout the U.S. and the world.

The conference had a large number of participants from the health care and rehab professions.  I acknowledged their role in working with law enforcement to address the world-wide drug problem and that in the U.S., like in many of the countries represented at this conference, our drug problem was in reality a social problem stemming from the collapse of the family unit, a failure to properly treat those with medical and mental health issues, and a general softening by many of our political leaders.  I indicated that unfortunately, some of our elected representatives seem to find it easier to succumb to pressure from a minority who believe that police are too concerned with arresting drug users, and the courts too concerned with filling our prisons with drug users. I suggested as Bob Bushman often says, “some of our leaders have lost their moral courage.” From a law enforcement perspective, I indicated what is most effective in combating illicit drug sales is arresting and locking up those in the criminal organizations who supply the illegal drugs.

I pledged that the NNOAC would continue to work with the World Federation Against Drugs, and the Swedish Networks of NGO’S to do all we can to be certain the facts about the international drug crisis are given to all who will listen and that our organization will continue its fight to combat illegal drug sales and distribution of illegal drugs not only in the U.S. but throughout the world.


The Opioid Crisis

Our nation is facing a life-threatening crisis. The impact of opioids and narcotics over the last several years is unprecedented. Families, community leaders and law enforcement agencies from the smallest towns to the largest cities are overwhelmed with the number of tragic deaths occurring each day. In 2015, drug poisoning deaths rose 11 percent to 52,404. In 2016 that number rose to 64,000. By comparison, the number of people who died in automobile accidents was 37,757. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, were 36,252. This nation is facing a growing crisis that must be stopped.

Marijuana is a Gateway Drug

The facts on marijuana are as alarming as they are clear. Based on treatment program data and statements to law enforcement by drug users, many substance abusers and addicts initiated their drug use with marijuana. In fact, many young people in drug treatment programs cite marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. Additionally, marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in testing following traffic crashes, gravely impacting public safety. And contrary to popular belief, tests and analysis have proven that marijuana has little or no medicinal benefit as a smoked drug and its respiratory damage is no less toxic than cigarettes.

The negative impact of marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington are alarming. According to information provided by those states, there has been a significant rise in marijuana use by young people, higher rates of traffic deaths from driving while drug impaired, more marijuana-related poisonings and hospitalizations, and, a thriving and persistent black market for marijuana, often involving Mexican drug cartels.

It is no coincidence that marijuana use by young people is the highest in states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. By actively promoting “medical” qualities of marijuana, legalizers are sending the message that marijuana use is “safe” which also reduces the perception of harm associated with its use, ultimately leading many people to abuse marijuana and other more harmful chemical substances. Even social scientists who advocate various decriminalization policies admit that a reduction in the perception of harm and the perception of social disapproval leads to increased use.

The truth is undeniable, increased marijuana and drug use has devastating and widespread consequences. It leads to higher addiction rates, increases in workplace safety and work related accidents, more violence, and more calls for public safety services. The increasing costs for emergency medical care, addiction treatment, public health programs and insurance premiums are putting heavy financial burdens on our citizens and their state and local governments. The dramatic increases in overdose deaths, traffic crashes and fatalities caused by drug-impaired drivers should not be acceptable to anyone.

While advocates of relaxing drug policy try to convince you that government will save millions in enforcement and incarceration costs, what they don’t tell you is how much of law enforcement time is spent responding to calls about criminal activity related to what people do while they are under the influence of drugs, not just the act of using or possessing drugs. When more people use drugs, more crimes are committed, generating more calls to law enforcement agencies. The data clearly shows this in Colorado and other states that have loosened marijuana policies they now require more resources that taxpayers must fund to address the consequences of drug use.

Advocates of decriminalization and legalization also argue that eliminating marijuana prohibition will eliminate the black market. Marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, where black market marijuana sales are thriving, has disproven that theory. Marijuana exports from those states to other states across our nation have increased dramatically. Creating a legal and regulated market for marijuana and other substances will never eliminate criminal profit incentives. Criminal groups including violent cartels engaged in the sale of marijuana and other drugs will exploit any legal loopholes for illicit advantage, ensuring that dangerous substances are still available to anyone who wants them regardless of legal status.

The NNOAC Foundation rejects the argument that drug enforcement has failed or that decriminalization or legalization will solve our national drug abuse problem. Through combined strategies of aggressive enforcement, multi-jurisdictional task force operation, mandatory sentencing policies for drug sellers and effective prevention and education programs, drug use by teens decreased substantially in the early 1980’s, and violent crimes, burglaries and thefts were significantly reduced. Sadly, as aggressive enforcement practices, sentencing penalties and state national drug strategies have been relaxed, violent crimes and drug use rates have risen at an alarming rate.