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Richard Branson: "United Nations paper calls on governments to decriminalise drug use"

The United Nations on Drugs and Crime says the paper isn't yet formalised

  • Mixmag staff
  • 20 October 2015

Sir Richard Branson has claimed that a United Nations document, not yet public, calls on global governments to rethink their drug policies, focusing on health treatment rather than imprisonment for use or possession.

An advocate for drug policy reformation, helping fund Nick Clegg's campaign, the businessman made the claim on his website,, although the United Nations on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has denied the document's status as "final nor formal".

According to the Telegraph, which has also seen it, the paper reads: "The international drug control conventions do not impose on member states obligations to criminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption.

"Member states should consider the implementation of measures to promote the right to health and to reduce prison-overcrowding, including by decriminalising drug use and possession for personal consumption."

Regarding the information in the paper, titled 'Decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal consumption', Branson wrote: "This is a refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalisation of millions of drug users around the world.

"My colleagues on the Global Commission on Drug Policy and I could not be more delighted, as I have stated in embargoed interviews for the likes of the BBC. Together with countless other tireless advocates, 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 also says it was planned to be declared at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Malaysia on Sunday, although the UNODC's response to Branson's post says it was only due to be discussed there.

"It remains under review and UNODC regrets that, on this occasion, there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding about the nature and intent of this briefing paper. UNODC emphatically denies reports that there has been pressure on UNODC to withdraw the document. But, it is not possible to withdraw what is not yet ready.

"Overall, UNODC remains committed to the balanced approach that, in particular, promotes alternatives to incarceration in line with international human rights standards."

[ Photo: MDMA Team]

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