Richard Branson opinion: U.S. needs more enlightened drug policies

Richard Branson’s recent op-ed about the United States’ war on drugs is a pointed attack on the failures of both government spending and law enforcement. Branson reminds the public of how Prohibition engendered organized crime in many parts of the country and inspired disdain for encroaching laws and regulation. He is quick to point out that similar effects are being seen in how America is trying to regulate recreational drug use and through its often overly harsh enforcement in cases involving relatively minor drug crimes.

United States spending to combat drug possession and drug crimes generally has climbed into the billions of dollars and consumed four decades of government efforts. Unfortunately, the results are not what was expected when former president Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs.

The American prison population is the largest in the world, with a large percentage of those individuals being incarcerated for minor drug crimes.

Branson criticizes the United States for failing to make necessary and logical adjustments in its strategy after it became eminently clear that current practices weren’t working. He characterizes the government’s approach as contrary to what a business or entrepreneur would do following failure, which is to take strides to correct a problem rather than allowing the ineffective bleeding to continue.

Meanwhile, the United States remains the number one nation on earth in terms of illegal drug use.

Prohibition proved to be a significant failure of attempted government regulation across the country, including in Georgia, and eventually the government relented. Branson feels that the United States could make smart moves now by decriminalizing minor drug possession, keeping minor drug crimes defendants out of prison and taxing those drugs rather than spending money to ineffectively stop their use. By doing so, the United States could be more effective in controlling drug use that actually poses a threat to individuals and the public.

Source: CNN, “War on drugs a trillion-dollar failure,” Richard Branson, Dec. 7, 2012