American drugs policy is a “war on black people” and results in the jailing of too many African Americans, billionaire entrepreneur and drugs law campaigner Sir Richard Branson said Wednesday.
Branson, who is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a body of leading figures and politicians campaigning for more effective drugs laws, said the U.S. approach to drugs was “racist.”
Branson made the remarks during a Reuters interview while acting as guest editor for Metro newspaper.
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“The fundamental difference in America, is that it is a war against black people in America. It's black people ... 85 percent of people who go to prison for drug use in America are black people. They don't take more drugs, but it's a racist law against black people in America,” he said.
Branson was speaking at the Broadway offices of Metro New York, where he was Global Guest Editor for all of Metro’s sister titles around the world.
Branson and the Commission call for a fresh approach, urging governments to treat addiction as an illness, best tacked by treatment and education, rather than as a crime.
He cited the example of Portugal, which has decriminalized drug use, although it continues to prosecute drug traffickers and dealers.
“The law should be changed. You’ve got something like 1.5 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 drug problem, getting off the problem,” he added. He said orthodox anti-drugs policy had failed across the world.
“I am part of global commission on drugs, and it consists of 15 ex-presidents from South America, it consists of people like Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker, 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 it is obvious it failed. Thousands of people in South Africa are killed every year, more and more people are sent to prison and the amount of people using drugs increases year over year.”
He was reacting to the news that an American border agent had been killed in shoot out with a suspected Mexican drugs gang in Arizona.