By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent, and Peter Dominiczak
19 October 2015
The United Nations drug agency is set to call on governments around the globe to decriminalise possession of drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, Sir Richard Branson has claimed.
“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”
Sir Richard Branson
The British businessman, who sits on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, announced in a blog he was “delighted” by a new document which appeared to mark a significant shift in tone by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UN is understood to dispute Sir Richard’s interpretation of the paper – but has not yet issued a formal statement.
A spokeswoman for Sir Richard said he broke an embargo on the information because he feared the UN would have a last-minute change-of-heart.
“Richard has released the announcement ahead of the UNODC due to concern that the UNODC would do a volte-face at the last possible moment,” she said.
The two-page document, a copy of which has been seen by The Telegraph, is entitled “Decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal consumption”.
[Tap or click here to read the UN briefing paper on drugs and decriminalisation in full.
It says: “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.”
Sir Richard, the founder of Virgin, said: “In an as-yet unreleased statement … the UNODC, which has shaped much of global drug policy for decades, call on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs.
“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.
“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 added that the document had been set for release at the International Harm Reduction conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday.
More teenagers need help for cannabis despite drop in use.
The Telegraph understands the paper was written by the head of the UN’s HIV and Aids section.
It would be unusual for such a significant UN policy change to be announced in this way.
The UN would normally take years to formulate such a far-reaching policy and an announcement would be made by a senior UN figure.
Sir Richard also announced the development on Twitter.
The Telegraph understands the document’s launch was delayed from its planned launch over the weekend after concerns over its content.
The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has previously adopted policies towards prohibition of hard substances and has even expressed concern about liberalisation of policies on softer drugs such as cannabis.
An official announcement by the UN is understood to be scheduled for later today.Republish