Treating drug addicts like criminals has done zero to address the worldwide drug problem, Richard Branson has asserted in an article for The Telegraph. Branson is to address the UK Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into drug policy to make the case for an different approach.
Branson points out that over $1 trillion has been spent over the past 50 years attempting to fight the ‘War On Drugs’, and the war has failed on a global scale – just as prohibition of alcohol did in the 1920s in the U.S.
He thinks that political leaders are failing to enact needed policy reforms that could help to solve the problem, such as decriminalizing drug use and treating it as a health issue, because leaders are too afraid to take a stand that could be seen as too “soft”.
Branson maintains that decriminalizing drugs would help to “free up crime-fighting resources to go after violent organised crime, and get more people the help they need to get off drugs” He added, “It’s time to get tough on misguided policies and end the war on drugs.”
Branson has been part of the Global Commission for Drug Policy that looked at international drug policy over the past half century. They found that it had totally failed to stop expansion and diversity in the global drug trade.
For instance, opiate use climbed over 34 percent between 1998 and 2008, even though the number of drug related prison sentences had risen markedly. Illegal drug industry profits have also increased dramatically. In short, prohibition and enforcement policies have not even dented the production and distribution of drugs worldwide.
Branson is calling for a serious debate on how new polices could make an impact on drug consumption, and reduce harm to so many people.
What do you think of Branson’s suggestion for new policy options? He suggests broad decriminalization of drug users; drug addicts having access to adequate treatment; education being used to dissuade drug use by young people; law enforcement targeting only violent crime.
What are your thoughts on this controversial issue?
Image CC licensed by West Midlands Police: Police drug haul