03:40 GMT +326 September 2018
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    Richard Branson: UN Wants to Decriminalize Personal Use of All Drugs

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    Virgin CEO Richard Branson on Monday shared an unreleased UN document on his blog that indicated a shift in UN drug policy toward decriminalizing the consumption and possession of all illegal drugs.

    According to UNODC (the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) spokesperson David Dadge, the leaked briefing paper was meant for the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference in Kuala Lumpur that occurred on Sunday, but it wasn't released. Since the document remains "under review", it "cannot be read as a statement of UNODC policy", Dadge insisted.

    The unreleased paper acknowledges that criminalization of drug use has resulted in severe health consequences, discrimination, compulsory detention, and incarceration across the world. Branson wrote in his post that more than 1.5 million people were arrested last year on non-violent drug charges only in US, and 83% of those just for possession.

    "Member States should consider the implementation of measures to promote the right to health and to reduce prison-overcrowding, including by decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal consumption." The document reads.

    Multiple studies have shown that a change in drug policy can be an effective way of harm reduction.

    "Combined with harm reduction programmes, decriminalisation will save lives as people who use drugs will no longer fear arrest and punishment when accessing healthcare services, it will also reduce crime and ease the burden on prison systems and law enforcement agencies." Branson wrote.

    He also noted that in places which have implemented decriminalization of drug use, the situation has actually improved. Thus, in Portugal drugs consumption and drug-related deaths have significantly decreased.

    Branson, who belongs to the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which proclaimed the global war on drugs a failure, said he leaked the document in fear that political pressure would not let the organization go forward with it. He praised the change in UNODC attitude, calling it a "refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalisation of millions of drug users around the world".

    "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." He wrote.


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