The founder of Virgin and the Deputy Prime Minister have called for an end to the war on drugs, labeling it a failure.
Both men have urged UK lawmakers to begin the process of decriminalizing nearly all drugs, following the example of Portugal.
“As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns,” they said. “If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like. The idea of eradicating drugs from the world by waging a war on those who use them is fundamentally flawed for one simple reason: it doesn’t reduce drug taking.
The Home Office’s own research, commissioned by Liberal Democrats in government and published a few months ago, found there is no apparent correlation between the ‘toughness’ of a country’s approach and the prevalence of adult drug use. This devastating conclusion means that we are wasting our scarce resources, and on a grand scale.”
The two men said that instead of punishing drug users and driving their habits underground, the UK should invest in treatment and use civil rather than criminal laws to reduce drug abuse. This would most likely mean directing more money and resources toward drug addiction treatment programs.
There is a precedent for these types of changes. Portugal's decriminalization of most drugs in 2001 led to a 50% drop in drug abuse. They also saw falling addiction rates, lower HIV infection numbers and fewer drug related deaths. Branson and Clegg claim that despite this proof many lawmakers are hesitant to make real changes because of the taboo surrounding drugs.
Despite this evidence, many front line charities dealing with drug abuse say decriminalization is a mistake. Over two thirds of drug abuse charities believed that decriminalization would lead to an increase in cannabis use which they feel would harm users.