Richard Branson is asking his followers for their opinions on ways to more effectively combat drug use and drug related crime.
The Virgin founder believes criminal syndicates should face the law and jail time but people with drug problems need health care, not prison. He has created a short survey to find out what others think about ending the criminalization and stigmatizing of drug users to find a better way of dealing with the problem.
In December last year, Branson visited Portugal and was impressed with the way the country is dealing with drug related crime: “In 2001 Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines,” he blogged. "Jail time was replaced with offer of therapy. (The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is much more expensive than treatment).
“Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker, and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
“Compared to the European Union and the US, Portugal drug use numbers are impressive.
“Following decriminalization, Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the EU: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%, Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.
“The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%. Drug use in older teens also declined. Life time heroin use among 16-18 year olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%.
“New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003.
“Death related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half.
“Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use.”
To take part in the survey, click here.