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RICHARD BRANSON IS ONE OF THE RICHEST men in the world. He’s worth around $5.2 billion, thanks to his music store chain, Virgin Records, and his airline, Virgin Atlantic. Branson recently spoke at The Atlantic’s Summit on Mental Health and Addiction, where he said something surprising about the drug war: “Decriminalizing and regulating all drugs is going to be the answer.”
The idea isn’t that ridiculous: countries like Portugal and Switzerland have already decriminalized all drugs, instead placing an emphasis on treatment of addicts. Portugal and Switzerland, Branson explained, have a system “where if somebody has a heroin problem, they’re not immediately thought of as somebody who should be criminalized. They’re actually told to come forward and they’re helped. There’s a place where they can come where the state will actually give them their heroin fix, where the needles are clean, where they’re not going to get HIV, where they’re not going to overdose, where they’re not going to get hepatitis, and they no longer need to break and enter into people’s homes in order to get their heroin fix.”
Branson brought it up in a discussion of the US heroin epidemic, which is currently quite bad. He doesn’t believe we’re going to be able to effectively fight it until we consider options other than simply criminalizing all drugs. While public opinion has started to turn in favor of the legalization of marijuana in the United States, legalizing hard drugs like heroin is probably a long way off. But Branson makes an interesting case. You can watch his full talk here.
Featured photo by Shinsuke Ikegame