Branstoned: Legalize Pot, says Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson is famous worldwide for being an exceptional entrepreneur and overall inspiring individual. The billionaire, reportedly worth $5.1 billion, made his fortune from the music and airline industry. But did you know that Branson is also a staunch and open supporter for marijuana? In fact, he even advises parents to smoke pot with their kids!
He credits Rolling Stones rockstar Keith Richards for teaching him how to roll a joint! How cool is that? In an interview with the Guardian, Branson spoke of the experience: "I was a late starter, in my early 20s, in a recording studio in Oxford. He was very patient with me.” Well, being a music mogul you do get very special treatment from other celebrities! In his book Losing My Virginity, Branson admits that he’s tried drugs like ecstasy and cocaine in the past.
The tycoon has been a longtime proponent of drug legalization, and also sits in the Global Commission on Drug Policy where he sits alongside political heavyweights such as former UN-Secretary Kofi Annan, ex Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, and former Sectary of State George Schultz. Branson thinks that people shouldn’t go to jail for drugs. He believes that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a crime. Branson says, “We believe the War on Drugs, which has been going on for 50 years now, has been a disaster.”
In the Guardian article, he also states that he believes most people are capable of taking drugs responsibly. Just last July in Chicago, Branson was speaking to an audience and he was noted saying “If they’re going to have a joint, do it with them.” Branson admits to having smoked some funny cigarettes with his son Sam, who’s in his late twenties. He joined his father on a gap year, although his son is rather embarrassed to admit. Branson has said, “There was one occasion where we smoked together and we had a good laugh. No harm was done to anybody.”
Branson has also said, “I would like to see hundreds of thousands of people languishing in American prisons and prisons around the world for smoking pot be released. It's ruining their lives, and it's not doing any good for society generally.”
Branson Believes Change Starts With America
A feature article on the Atlantic explores Branson’s efforts to reform drug policies in America. I think the domestic reform just makes America’s moral stance in lecturing other countries, which they’ve done––not only lectured but sent in forces and sprayed crops and done some pretty horrendous things around the world––now that stance that they’re taking is going to be much more difficult to moralize,” he said. Branson believes that when reforms are done in the US it would provide the momentum for the rest of the world to follow. “Decriminalizing and regulating all drugs is going to be the answer,” he said.
He famously quotes the well-known example of Portugal as proof of how beneficial it is for countries to decriminalize drugs. Back in 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs and instead sent addicts and users to rehab or had them pay fines instead of dumping them in prison. As a result, deaths from drug overdoses as well as the numbers of addiction have dropped dramatically.
Despite Branson’s efforts to convince politicians to follow the same route for decriminalization, he isn’t sure that it’s all going to work. Even if a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, Branson thinks that developments in states, such as Colorado for example (which he has high praises for), are instrumental in providing the needed domestic pressure.
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