By Katie Silver
23rd January 2012
Sir Richard Branson argues drugs should be decriminalised to help police better fight other crimes and allow addicts to seek help.
The Virgin mogul wrote today that the ‘broad criminalisation’ is a ‘misguided policy’ that has wasted ‘billions of dollars’.
‘Over the past 50 years, more than $1 trillion has been spent fighting this battle, and all we have to show for it is increased drug use, overflowing jails, billions of pounds and dollars of taxpayers’ money wasted, and thriving crime syndicates,’ the billionaire wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
Richard Branson says billions of pounds spent in a war against drugs have been unsuccessful. He says its time to admit defeat and change tact
‘It is time for a new approach.’
Equating the fight against drugs with alcohol prohibition in the US in the 1920s, Sir Branson argues the fight has ‘failed globally’.
Sir Richard Branson argues for the decriminalisation of drugs
Branson, who worked alongside the UN on the Global Commission for Drug Policy, argued decriminalisation in countries such as Switzerland and Portugal has proven effective in reducing the consumption of drugs.
Arguing policy-makers are too ‘scared’ to seem ‘soft,’ the tycoon will appear tomorrow in front of the drug policy inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
‘Too many of our leaders worldwide are ignoring policy reforms that could rapidly reduce violence and organised crime, cut down on theft, improve public health and reduce the use of illicit drugs,’ he said.
Sir Branson argues despite drug policy efforts, the drug trade has nonetheless grown in size and diversity.
He says that efforts at prohibition and enforcement have not helped to curb drug production or distribution, nor has punishment successfully deterred drug use.
Decriminalisation is not about supporting drug use but rather solving a crisis, said the media boss who admitted to smoking marijuana on a surfing trip with his son in Australia.
The media boss still supports regulation but says it should be done in a way that is more effective – with new policy options explored and increased education for young people.
Richard Branson in his younger days. The mogul has been cited as saying he would sell marijuana if it was legal
Instead of arresting and punishing citizens with addiction problems, law enforcement should focus instead on violent criminals, he said.
He says countries should experiment with new options such as replacing incarceration with therapy which will cost taxpayers far less, Branson argues.
Success should no longer be measured on numbers of arrests, prosecutions and drug seizures, which have little impact on levels of drug use or crime, he said.
Branson in 1971: The businessman, pictured here at 21-years-old, will appear before a drug policy inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee tomorrow
Results should instead focus on ‘things like the number of victims of drug-related violence and intimidation, levels of corruption connected to the drug market, the amount of crime connected to drug use, and the prevalence of dependence, drug-related mortality and HIV infection.’
Branson equated the failed war on drugs with small failures he’s had in his business empire.
He argues policy makers need to be courageous to recognise these failures and change strategy.
- Ex-MI5 head backs calls to legalise drugs (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Richard Branson Calls For A Portuguese Approach To Ending The War On Drugs (businessinsider.com)