“Finally – a change in the course of drug policy.”
On Richard Branson’s website is an announcement from October of last year that reads, “Finally – a change in course on drug policy.” The last sentence of that article says, “The war on drugs has done too much damage to too many people already.”
At that point, Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, had just been responsible for a significant breakthrough in the global drug policy.
According to a recent article in the Atlantic:
In the text of that announcement he leaked a draft of a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime brief that held that international decriminalization of recreational drugs is not only consistent with international law, but perhaps necessary to fulfill human-rights and public-health obligations. If finalized and published, that brief would have been perhaps the strongest international endorsement of drug decriminalization yet.
Branson uses and pulls from Portugal’s example and policy. Today, in Portugal, as the result of more compassionate and health conscious policies, such as free needles, free heroin, help shooting up, and access to non-judgmental and non-criminal detoxes, replacing jail and prison time with fines or rehab appointments for those caught using drugs in public there are a mere 3 drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 citizens. Comparable numbers in other countries range from 10.2 per million in the Netherlands to 44.6 per million in the U.K., all the way up to 126.8 per million in Estonia. The E.U. average is 17.3 per million. And that’s just Europe.
When it comes to the decriminalization of drugs, the Washington Post reports:
Still, it’s very clear that decriminalization hasn’t had the severe consequences that its opponents predicted. As the Transform Drug Policy Institute says in its analysis of Portugal’s drug laws, “The reality is that Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas. Most notably, HIV infections and drug-related deaths have decreased, while the dramatic rise in use feared by some has failed to materialise.”
As we discussed on the T&Z Talk Podcast:
The U.S. consumes 80 percent of the pharmacutical pain medication in the world – that’s a real problem. There’s a stigma in this country that drug users are dirty and morally bankrupt. In Portugal, one if the highest rates of drug deaths in the EU countries and we’re getting close to that here, they tried a compassionate approach and the use, deaths, and cases of HIV have decreased.
It’s time for the U.S. to start looking at the success other countries have had with their drug policies. As Richard Branson put it, ‘the war on drugs has done too much damage to too many people already.’
The discussion can be found in the second half of the podcast below. If you’d like to hear more episodes you can subscribe to the show at T&Z Talk.
You can listen to more of Richard Zombeck with Tony Trupiano on T&Z Talk