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AP Photo/Reed Saxon
It wasn’t ready.

Richard Branson leaked a UN paper supporting drug decriminalization worldwide

By Frida Garza

A policy document advocating for the decriminalization of drugs around the world, drafted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, was leaked to the public yesterday.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and member of another non-governmental body, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, that advocates for the end of drug criminalization, posted the paper on his blog on Oct. 19, explaining that the document had been shared with ”the BBC, myself, and others.” The BBC also published the document in full, reporting that the paper had been prepared by a UNODC staff member for a conference in Malaysia that day.

Branson, a longtime proponent for ending the war on drugs, lauded the paper on his blog, writing, “I’ve for years argued that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime.” He also tweeted his support.

In a press release, the UNODC responded that the leaked document cannot be considered “final or formal,” and should not be read as a “statement of UNODC policy.” The organization added that ”there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding about the nature and intent of this briefing paper,” which is still “under review.”

The document calls to decriminalize drug use and possession for personal use. It lists drug-related deaths, discrimination, social exclusion, violence, and incarceration as some of the negative effects of treating personal drug use as a criminal offense.

Both the BBC and Branson suggest that the paper was withdrawn from the conference under pressure from at least one national government.

The UNODC denied that the organization has been pressured to withdraw the document, but also adds that the document was not in a position to be withdrawn, in the first place. “It is not possible to withdraw what is not yet ready,” the statement reads.