Billionaire businessman Richard Branson is calling on governments around the world to decriminalize drug use and possession, saying the war on drugs has failed to reduce either supply or demand.
The self-made mogul argued in a statement that governments have wasted billions chasing the "illusion" of a drug-free world, while failing to take control of the global trade from criminal organizations.
"I've for years argued that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime," Branson said. "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."
In his statement, Branson also said that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is about to release a statement calling for the global decriminalization of drugs. But the UN says that's not the case, adding that "there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding about the nature and intent of [a] briefing paper."
The billionaire, a commissioner at the advocacy group Global Commission on Drug Policy, has previously called for the UK to decriminalize drugs, saying his home country is being left behind as attitudes shift.
"As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago," he wrote in March. "This is not what success looks like."
In the U.S., poll results indicate that public opinion has shifted toward legalizing marijuana in recent years.
Recreational pot is already legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, as well as Washington, D.C. Medical marijuana is legal in more than 20 states, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.