It has been revealed that billionaire Sir Richard Branson made a personal submission to the Australian government’s National Ice Task Force, calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to decriminalise drugs.
Branson is affiliated with the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of 22 world leaders and prominent figures who argue that drug policy should favour decriminalisation over harsh law enforcement.
In his submission, made to the task force last month and uncovered by Fairfax, Branson wrote:
“Drug use should be treated as a health issue, not as a crime. While the vast majority of recreational drug users never experience any problems, people who struggle with drug addiction deserve access to treatment, not a prison cell.”
Branson went on to argue in favour of harm-reduction, saying that this, coupled with decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use, would “save lives”, as people would not “fear arrest and punishment when accessing healthcare services.”
Last week, the Task Force released its report, and pledged almost $300m to the drug treatment sector, with a view towards treatment and prevention over policing.
Many in the drug treatment sector are unhappy with the outcome, however, and say that the government needs to go further in terms of extending funding periods beyond the current 12-month cycles.
Garth Popple, of the residential drug treatment service We Help Ourselves, said to Fairfax:
“How are you supposed to attract and keep quality staff on such short contracts? How do you renegotiate a lease on a property, to run your programs from? How do you secure a car lease for three years with six months funding and a question mark at the end of it? We want to build foundations for quality services. Instead, we edge towards a cliff every 12 months. The insecurity and anxiety is wearing everyone down.”