In June 2011 we reported on an excellent lecture by Michelle Alexander on how the so-called drugs war has been used to create a racial caste system in the United States of America. Whilst other human rights organisations shy away from the issue, HRI calls for an end of the “war on drugs.”
This is a human rights issue and drugs are either a matter of personal choice or a medical problem to be dealt with by the medical profession. The use of drugs needs to be taken out of the criminal justice system entirely.
The disastrous effects of the drugs war are clear to all objective observers and that includes the Global Drugs Commission which has recently reported on the devastating consequences of the criminalization of drugs use.
Richard Branson is a member of the commission and here is a recent interview from Reuters which we have transcribed below (apologies for the rubbish tacked on the end about facebook):
Richard Branson: The Commission consists of 15 ex-Presidents from South America, it consists of people like Kofi Annan, Paul Volker, George Schultz and ex-Presidents from Switzerland and Greece and other places.
And we just spent two years looking at the war on drugs and its patently obvious it has failed.
Thousands of people in South Africa are killed every year. More and more people are sent to prison and yet the amount of people using drugs just increases year by year.
So what the Commission has basically we’ve done is looked at countries where a different system has worked
Portugal, the last 10 years no one is sent to prison for taking drugs if you have a drug problem you are helped at the cost of the state
And the amount of drug use has dropped dramatically, the amount of people getting HIV has dropped dramatically, the amount of breaking and entering has dropped dramatically.
It works in Portugal, Spain is now doing it, its working there. Switzerland and Germany are now doing it for hard drugs, its working there.
And we would suggest that America should follow suit
Interviewer: Of course America is different, right – what’s different about America?
Richard Branson: I’ll tell you what the fundamental difference is in America it is a war against black people in America.
About 85% of the people who go to prison for drugs are black people
They don’t take more drugs but it is a racist law against black people in America and the law should be changed.
You’ve got something like 1 and a half million people in American jails languishing for taking drugs and that is wrong.
Those people would be much better being out in society being helped if they have drugs problems getting off the problem.