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Sir Richard Branson

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Sir Richard Branson has called the war on drugs a global failure, and is asking governments around the world to experiment with policies that would see the decriminalisation of illicit drugs.

The entrepreneur made the comments on the eve of his appearance at the UK Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into drug policy, in an article written for London’s Daily Telegraph.

Branson said over $1 trillion has been spent fighting the losing battle against drugs over the past 50 years, and it’s time leaders around the world have the courage to make important reforms to illicit drug policies.

“For all the successes I’ve had in business, I’ve also learnt to accept when things go wrong, work out why, and try to find a better way. The war on drugs is a failed enterprise. We need to have the courage to learn the lessons and move on,” Branson wrote.

Branson suggests moving away from broad decriminalisation and towards the regulation of illicit drugs and treatment of users.

“Unless this issue is tackled now, countless individuals and families will continue to suffer, no matter how much money is spent. We need a debate on how policy can cut consumption and reduce harm, rather than inflammatory scaremongering. It is not about supporting drug use; it is about solving a crisis,” he wrote.

The billionaire business tycoon suggests countries should be encouraged to follow the lead of Switzerland and Portugal and experiment with new policies. In Switzerland, Branson said authorities employed a host of harm-reduction therapies, and successfully disrupted the criminal drug market.

“In Portugal, decriminalisation for users of all drugs 10 years ago led to a significant reduction in heroin use and decreased levels of property crime, HIV infection and violence. Replacing incarceration with therapy also helped create safer communities and saved the country money – since prison is far more expensive than treatment.”

“Even with these examples, we do not yet know what will work best. New policies should be evaluated according to the scientific evidence. But we can say now that these policies should focus on the rights of citizens and on protecting public health,” he finished.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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