Virgin Mogul Richard Branson Says Legalizing Pot is a "Win-Win," Argues for Drug Policy Reform

From Virgin Records to Virgin Megastores and Virgin Atlantic Airways, Richard Branson grew Virgin Group, an empire that now includes hundreds of companies. A  world famous entrepreneur, Branson is proof that recreational drug users are often highly successful people: He has admitted to smoking marijuana, including with his adult son, a well as trying cocaine and ecstasy. Now, Branson is putting his experience towards advocacy, and calling for drug policy reform.  

On Monday in Geneva, former world leaders met to discuss drug policy, and how to handle addiction amid drug war failures.  There, Branson argued that law enforcement should focus on violent criminals, not addiction sufferers, and that countries should experiment with health-based alternatives to incarceration, like treatment. Branson says success should not be measured by arrests, prosecutions, and drug seizures -- which are often used as tools to support prohibition -- but  actually do little to prevent crime or reduce the harms associated with addiction and use.

From the Guardian:

The market for cannabis in Britain should be regulated and taxed, and responsibility for drug policy moved from the Home Office to the health department, Sir Richard Branson has told MPs.

The Virgin Group head said the 20% of police time and £200m spent on giving criminal sentences to 70,000 young people for possession of illegal drugs in Britain each year would be better spent going after the criminal gangs at the centre of the drugs trade. "It's win-win all round,'' he told the Commons home affairs select committee.

Asked about his personal history of drug use, Branson replied: "I would say 50% of my generation has smoked cannabis. I would say 75% of my children's generation has smoked cannabis … If I was smoking cigarettes, I would be very worried."

He said that in his own Virgin companies he did not think staff who were found to be taking drugs should be dismissed but instead treated as having a problem, and helped. "There are many people in companies with drink problems or smoking problems," he said.

Branson was part of a global commission on drug policy, which includes five ex-presidents and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general. The body concluded last year that the war on drugs had failed and called for experiments in decriminalisation.


Branson argued that the policy of switching responsibilty for drug policy from the Home Office to the health department had worked in Portugal, where nobody had been jailed for using or possessing drugs in the last 10 years.

As a successful businessman and out drug user, Branson could be a powerful voice in the international drug reform movement. 

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at January 24, 2012, 9:26am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018
Today's Top Stories