Sir Richard Branson has said changing public attitudes and the election of Joe Biden to the US presidency could finally pave the way for meaningful drug policy reform.
Writing on his virgin.com blog in a post headlined ‘Changing the cannabis conversation’, Branson said while many parts of the world still pursue the same failed drug policies of the last six decades, there is growing support for the legalisation and regulation of recreational and medicinal cannabis.
“From Uruguay to Canada, from Spain to Luxembourg, lawmakers and regulators have begun to see the futility of demonising a drug that is widely used and may offer medical benefits to millions of people,” he wrote.
Despite liberalisation at a State level in the US, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. However, Branson highlighted a recent Biden speech in which the president stressed the importance of drug rehabilitation over penalisation and the progress of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which seeks to reschedule cannabis and decriminalise it at the federal level, as evidence that attitudes are changing – at least in the White House.
He added: “In any debate, there may come a point where… public opinion shifts and there is more evidence for change than staying with the status quo. The question is: has this point been reached for drug policy reform?”
Branson said the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement had “cast a spotlight on the role that racism and racial injustice have played in 60 years of global drug wars. There is no question that drug laws in the US and elsewhere have created separate realities and where you land often depends on the colour of your skin.”
He added drug policy reform would save lives, improve public health,reduce the burden on public resources and the criminal justice system and break the cycle of marginalisation.
However, Branson acknowledged that the MORE Act, which was voted through the US House of Representatives in December, still needs to get through the Senate, “which may be trickier”.