In light of the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the BBC interviewed two advocates of further reforms, both in the U.S. and world-wide.
The BBC sat down with Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the N.Y.C.-based Drug Policy Alliance, and Richard Branson, chair of Virgin Group. His son produced the documentary “Breaking the Taboo,” which critiques the costs and strategies of enforcing current drug laws.
“Countries that are oppressive about drugs are suffering, and the people in particular are suffering. Countries like Portugal or spain, which are treating the drug as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue, are getting on top of the problem,” said Branson.
“This is a lot like what happened with the repeal of alcohol prohibition in America in the late twenties and early thirties,” said Nadelmann, “where more and more state governments began to repeal their own state alcohol prohibition laws, and eventually the national government followed suit.”
When asked if legalization could increase drug use, he replied, “Is there a risk of more people using marijuana? There is a risk. But I don’t think it’s a risk of a dramatic increase. And meanwhile, no longer arresting 750,000 Americans a year, no longer spending tens of billions of dollars to enforce these unenforceable prohibitions, taking the money out of the hands of the gangsters, allowing police to focus on real crime, those are the arguments that are compelling for most Americans.”
When asked if legalization could make “drug gangs” more powerful, Branson referred to Portugal. The country itself began providing heroin to heroin addicts, “pulling the rug” under drug kingpins while reducing the number …