Richard Branson has claimed that governments around the world are being called on to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption by the UN.
The appeal to governments around the world is being made in an embargoed policy document that Sir Richard published today online on his personal blog, claiming that he was doing so to prevent the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) from performing a ‘volte-face at the last possible moment.’
The two-page document, a copy of which is now whizzing around social media, is entitled “Decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal consumption.
It states: “The international drug control conventions do not impose on member states obligations to criminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption.
“Member states should consider the implementation of measures to promote the right to health and to reduce prison-overcrowding, including by decriminalising drug use and possession for personal consumption.”
Sir Richard, the founder of Virgin, wrote on his blog: “UNODC, which has shaped much of global drug policy for decades, is calling on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs.
“This is a refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalisation of millions of drug users around the world.
“Together with countless other tireless advocates, I’ve for years argued that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime. While the vast majority of recreational drug users never experience any problems, people who struggle with drug addiction deserve access to treatment, not a prison cell.”
Sir Richard adds, “In their zeal for chasing the illusion of a drug-free world, governments have poured billions into tough law enforcement that did nothing to reduce drug supply or demand, or take control from the criminal organisations in charge of the global drug trade. In the US alone, over 1.5 million people were arrested in 2014 on non-violent drug charges, 83 per cent of those solely for possession. Globally, more than one in five people sentenced to prison are sentenced for drug offences.
“It’s exciting that the UNODC has now unequivocally stated that criminalisation is harmful, unnecessary and disproportionate.
“It’s good to see evidence and common sense prevail at UNODC. Which government wouldn’t agree with that? But as I'm writing this I am hearing that at least one government is putting an inordinate amount of pressure on the UNODC. Let us hope the UNODC, a global organisation that is part of the UN and supposed to do what is right for the people of the world, does not do a remarkable volte-face at the last possible moment and bow to pressure by not going ahead with this important move. The war on drugs has done too much damage to too many people already.”