UN drug decriminalisation document leaked

(File)
(File)

Sir Richard Branson has told his online followers the UN is about to call on governments to end the War on Drugs and decriminalise the use and possession of all illegal substances.

The British entrepreneur showed what he called an "as-yet unreleased statement" sent to media under embargo, but which has now been withdrawn.

Sir Richard has long argued against punishing drug users, and yesterday he thought he had found a major ally in the UN.

"It's a very, very powerful statement saying that drugs should be treated as a health problem," Sir Richard says. "People who have drug problems should be able to come forward and be helped."

The UN says there was an unfortunate misunderstanding about the document, which Sir Richard reproduced on his website, and says it was neither final nor formal.

"The reason I'm going public is that I'm extremely worried … that a country, or maybe two, might be trying to supress this report," says Sir Richard.

The UN denies any pressure to withdraw the document, and the New Zealand Government is backing that line.

Many who work with drug addicts here say that it is a shame.

"We want to minimise the harms that drugs do cause," Richie Hardcore, a drug harm campaigner, says. "And the current model of locking people up and throwing away the key hasn't been seen to work for the past 40 years."

But the Police Association says decriminalising drugs won't help.

"If it's to reduce the harm caused by organised crime then decriminalisation doesn't do much about that, because certainly in the short term it's going to increase demand," says president Greg O'Connor.

Sir Richard and allies use Portugal as a positive example. They claim drug use has dropped, and so have drug-related deaths since decriminalisation 14 years ago.

Watch the video for the full 3 News report.

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