Business titan Richard Branson claimed on Monday that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has prepared an unreleased document calling on "governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs."
"It's exciting that the UNODC has now unequivocally stated that criminalization is harmful, unnecessary and disproportionate, echoing concerns about the immense human and economic costs of current drug policies voiced earlier by UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, UNDP, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, Kofi Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon," wrote Branson, who founded the business conglomerate Virgin Group and sits on the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
He claimed that the embargoed statement was circulated to "the BBC, myself and others" and was supposed to be released at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Malaysia on Sunday.
"But as I'm writing this," Branson added, "I am hearing that at least one government is putting an inordinate amount of pressure on the UNODC. Let us hope the UNODC, a global organization that is part of the UN and supposed to do what is right for the people of the world, does not do a remarkable volte-face at the last possible moment and bow to pressure by not going ahead with this important move."
"The war on drugs has done too much damage to too many people already," he continued.
Branson's claims were quickly reported by media outlets around the world. However, the Telegraph noted, "The United Nations is understood to dispute Sir Richard's interpretation of the paper—but has not yet issued a formal statement."