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Branson Argues For End To The War On Drugs

Jacob Redmond

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Richard Branson has brought his war on the war on drugs to Las Vegas.

Branson, the charismatic founder of the Virgin Group, was a panelist at a session debating U.S. drug policy at the Starbridge Capital Alternatives Conference, a high-level investment event that brings in top names in business, government and politics to discuss issues leading to wise investment decisions.

Among the big names at the four-day conference at Bellagio that ends today were former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke; energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens; retired CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus; political operatives James Carville and Karl Rove; actor Michael J. Fox; retired tennis professional Andre Agassi; and billionaire entrepreneur-adventurer Branson, who produced a documentary "Breaking the Taboo" on drug addiction.

Branson was joined on the panel by David Marlon, co-founder of Solutions Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Las Vegas, and George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece.

There was little debate from the panel. Participants and many of those who posed questions to panelists were unified in opposition to existing U.S. drug policy, urging an end to the war on drugs by decriminalizing the use of illicit drugs.

Calling the nation's war on drugs "an unmitigated disaster," Branson and the documentary film, shot partly at Marlon's facility, took the position that resources would be better used in treating drug addicts and keeping them with their families than spending more on drug enforcement agencies, courts and prisons.

"I've been in business for about 50 years and the war on drugs has been going for at least 50 years," Branson said. "If one of my businesses had failed as miserably as the war on drugs has failed, I would have closed it down 49 years ago."

Papandreou said countries could deliver a huge blow against drug cartels by removing the high profit motive by refocusing the strategy of how it addresses drug use.

How can that be accomplished? Branson and Marlon suggested that it would best be done through public education as well educating political leaders to change their mindsets on how to tackle the problem.

"Politicians need to be educated and helped on this issue," Branson said. "It might have to be pretty direct, say something like, 'Would you want your children or grandchildren to be sent to prison or do you want them to be helped?'"

Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, has visited several countries and has praised Portugal for its rejection of the war on drugs for a decriminalization approach.

Marlon said his rehabilitation center treats addictive behavior and it advocates abstinence from drug use in addition to the decriminalization philosophy.

Panelists said the public is starting to embrace new drug policies as evidenced by about half the United States having medical marijuana laws on their books and a few either legalizing recreational use of marijuana or considering it.

The hall, filled to capacity for the panel and the film screening, paused to applaud the Nevada Legislature's passage of the so-called Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act earlier this week.

The bill, expected to be signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval, provides protection to those who make calls for help in an overdose emergency.

Nevada is the fourth-leading state for drug overdose mortality rates.


News Moderator: Jacob Redmond 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Branson argues for end to the war on drugs | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: Richard N. Velotta
Contact: rvelotta@reviewjournal.com
Photo Credit: Martin S. Fuentes/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Website: Las Vegas Review-Journal | The most reliable source for Las Vegas news
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