Sir Richard Branson has told MPs that the approach to drugs must change (Reuters)
Sir Richard Branson has told MPs that the approach to drugs must change (Reuters)

Sir Richard Branson believes that the use of drugs should be treated as a health problem and not a crime, adding the war on drugs has "totally failed."

Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, the Virgin boss told MPs that the failure was down to "trying to deal with it as a criminal problem rather than a health problem"

The entrepreneur also told MPs that Britain should follow in the steps of countries like Portugal, where not a single person has been jailed for using drugs in the last 10 years.

"10 years ago they had a massive drug problem. Heroin was rampant and they decided to move drugs from the home office to the health department," the tycoon said.

Branson suggested that the drugs policy should be in the hands of the Department of Health, and not the Home Office. He believes this would help the authorities concentrate on organised crime and the people dealing drugs.

"100,000 young people are arrested every year, and the figures are growing, for taking drugs," said Branson.

"75,000 of these young people are given criminal records. By actually moving drugs into the health department and not in the Home Office, if people have a problem, just like in Portugal, they should go in front of a panel to help them."

"Treatment is a lot cheaper than prison and more effective. There is enormous benefit to individuals in society."

But Branson did add: "I would not advocate heroin and cocaine to be sold in supermarkets."

When asked about his own drug use, Branson suggested "50 percent of my generation have smoked cannabis" and "75 percent of my children's generation had smoked cannabis."

Branson admitted that Prime Minister Davis Cameron would have to be "brave" to pass a policy regarding changing the drug laws.

The committee's previous inquiry in 2002, when Cameron was on the committee, said that drug use was a "passing phase" for many young people which "rarely results in any long-term harm."

Cameron admitted more than 10 years ago that the UK's drug policy "has been failing for decades" and he hoped the report "will encourage fresh thinking and a new approach."

The Home Office has already said it has "no intention of liberalising our drugs laws."

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