This week, at The Atlantic’s inaugural Summit on Mental Health and Addiction, business magnate Richard Branson scrutinized at length the global war on drugs and called for a radical new approach. Vann covered his comments:
[Branson] believes that focusing on domestic American reforms would reduce the global policy will to criminalize drugs and would provide strong momentum for pushing a goal that seems well beyond even the outer limits of the American policy imagination. “Decriminalizing and regulating all drugs is going to be the answer,” he proclaimed.
Branson leans heavily on the international example of Portugal as evidence for the efficacy of decriminalization. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs, replacing jail and prison time with fines or rehab appointments for those caught using drugs in public. The results have been dramatic, with drug deaths and addiction both falling by large margins over the years, an example which has convinced Branson and the Global Commission on Drug Policy. “The amount of people taking heroin now has gone down by something like 80 percent,” Branson said.
You can watch his entire 45-minute talk here, and a snippet is embedded above. But a reader, Ethan Ash, isn’t quite convinced:
Branson’s cause is intriguing to me. I see it as a near inevitability that in the next 10-15 years marijuana will be legal nationwide. “Hard” drugs, though? Knowing the potential for addiction and fatal overdose of cocaine, meth, heroin ... I find that dubious at best. Portugal’s experimentation notwithstanding, I don’t see the appetite even among the hardcore “legalize it” crowd, let-alone the moderates it’d take to make meaningful progress on that here in the U.S.
Even small-government conservatives like myself believe in government intervention when critical for safety, and it’s not challenging to argue that the “hard” drugs aren’t safe under any circumstances. Therefore, they’re an infinitely harder sell than marijuana, which even the most critical of studies paint as being minimally harmful to long-term health and functioning.
What do you think? Drop us an email and we’ll get a debate going. Or if you’d simply like to share your story of addiction (anonymously if you prefer), or your experience with someone who’s had an addiction, please let us know.