So RBC community: What would you ask the American and Russian drug czars?

And yeah, maybe “czar” isn’t the best nomenclature here….

I am moderating the below event at the Chicago Club tomorrow evening. And I need help. Fortunately, who better than the RBC community to suggest burning or important questions? Oh yeah, you are welcome to come, though there is a door fee. The blurb and details are below the fold. The most incisive suggested question wins a prize.

Drug trafficking, Counternarcotics, and Law Enforcement: A report on renewed U.S.-Russia cooperation

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
Victor Ivanov, Director, Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation

Moderated by Harold Pollack, Codirector, University of Chicago Crime Lab and Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago

Since 2009, the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission has renewed intergovernmental collaboration, leading to an unprecedented exchange of resources in areas of mutual interest. As part of this effort, Directors Kerlikowske and Ivanov have worked closely to coordinate interagency activities on counternarcotics initiatives, including cooperation on drug law enforcement investigations and promoting the prevention and treatment of drug abuse. What is the impact of this partnership? How does it affect Chicago, the Midwest, and U.S. national interests? Join The Chicago Council for a conversation on the latest bilateral efforts for combatting international criminal organizations, implementing a joint counternarcotics strategy, and disrupting illicit capital flows around the globe.

5:30 p.m.             Registration and cash bar reception
6:00 p.m.             Presentation and discussion
7:15 p.m.             Adjournment

The Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren Street, Chicago, IL 60605
Business attire is required.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

20 thoughts on “So RBC community: What would you ask the American and Russian drug czars?”

  1. What circumstances, if any, would warrant a serious consideration of alternatives to drug prohibition?

    (I suspect I know the answer to this one but the one I’m offering nonetheless)

  2. 1. What sobriquet for their jobs would MM Kerlikowske and Ivanov suggest in preference to the ridiculous and negative ¨drug czar¨?
    2. What sobriquet for their task would they prefer to the bombastic and depersonalizing ¨war on drugs¨?

  3. Do Russians find calling people in these positions “Czars” as disturbingly spot on as Americans do?

  4. “I have heard that the Russian spy service includes beautiful women who seduce Americans to obtain critical information. Are you aware, Mr. Ivanov, that as a University of Chicago Professor I know many useful things, and if so, would you be willing to spread that fact around the Russian intelligence community?”.

  5. For Director Ivanov: Do you ever receive information about drug-related criminal activity in Russia from US intelligence agencies such as CIA or NSA? If so, which ones? Has this information ever lead to arrests or convictions? Does the intelligence/policing firewall that exists in the US also exist in Russia?

    For Director Kerlikowske: Similarly, has the US ever received information about drug-related criminal activity in the US from Russian intelligence agencies such as the Foreign Intelligence Service? If so, which ones? Has this information ever lead to arrests or convictions?

  6. If drug prohibition were to come to an abrupt end: What would happen to income flow and economic activity in poor communities within producing and consuming locales? Which people within the drug trade might turn to other crime activities to support their lifestyles? What might those activities be, and are we prepared to curb those activities? What economic opportunities could/should be put in place, ahead of prohibition repeal, to help displaced drug workers cope with loss of drug trade income? Bring back some factory jobs, perhaps?

    If low-level drug offenders in the U.S., and those charged with guarding them, were not in jail, but were instead employed in local factories or other productive jobs, what would be the bump up in U.S. GDP? That is, if the money to dig the vast incarceration hole were spent, instead, to subsidize a return to living-wage jobs for the masses, what additional goods and services might we be enjoying as a society?

    Are drug traffickers, at various levels along the chain of command, addicted to — brain chemistry-wise — the competitive thrills and dangers of the trade? That is, do such thrills hook into the brain just like a drug? If so, what could be said to, or shown to, or fed to these addicts, or what activities could they be drawn into, which might help them overcome any such addiction? (I once saw a Ted Koppel TV interview between various Los Angeles gang members. They were all seated around Ted at a picnic table in a public park. The gang guys were saying they wanted to get out of the biz, wanted their kids to live in the suburbs away from the danger, all very reasonable and grown up sounding. But when a rival gang car started to cruise along the edge of the park, the gang members came alive, got elevated, started to smile and animate. It’s a startling transformation from rational to some other state of mind.

    Which political, governmental, financial/business arrangements around the globe are likely to become unstable if prohibition were to end?

  7. Are there any drug kingpins who would retire into wealthy paradise if they were given safe haven? That is, do any of them stay in the biz because they see no way to hold onto wealth and life if they quit? If we quietly approached any kingpins with such a way out, might that be a way to redirect activities to a more benign path?

  8. Are the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances sufficiently nuanced to be useful or are they blunt instruments?

    (But I think Keith, that Chicago Dog, had the best question.)

  9. I was a lot more interested in this post when I thought you were going to ask questions of Semion Mogilevich & co.

    Anyway, question for both guys: how can law enforcement better attack the money laundering aspect of drug trafficking? Obv if people didn’t make money they wouldn’t do it. Does law enforcement need more resources, new laws, or are they doing a pretty good job?

  10. A question maybe only suited for the US “tzar”, in Sweden there have been reports the US drug tsar is complimenting Sweden of its drug policies and a statement about how the US is considering Sweden as a role model (as seen here http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=sv&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fdrugnews.nu%2Farticle.asp%3Fid%3D6532). Yesterday the latest EU statistics were published and among the differerent statistic summaries there is one about the drugrelated deaths and the figure for Sweden is that Sweden has double the average death rate in the EU countries, our “problematic drug users” ratio is among the average for EU countries (aka no success story). In what ways do the US consider these numbers as a role model?

  11. Join The Chicago Council for a conversation on the latest bilateral efforts for combatting international criminal organizations, implementing a joint counternarcotics strategy, and disrupting illicit capital flows around the globe.

    Wouldn’t it be far cheaper, easier, and safer for everyone involved if we we’re ceding control of the narcotics markets to international criminal organizations, and wouldn’t seizing control through legal regulation do the most to disrupt illicit capital flows around the globe?

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