Billionaire Branson calls for drug decriminalisation


Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has called for the immediate decriminalisation of drugs in NSW to prioritise users' health over law enforcement.

In a video message, the Virgin founder praised the "incredible" work that had been done in drug-law reform since he joined the launch of the Uniting Church-led Fair Treatment campaign five years ago.

"The Australian Capital Territory took the lead and changed its drug laws for the better, removing criminal sanctions for simple drug use," he said.

But Sir Richard said more needed to be done and he was looking forward to NSW holding its promised drug summit, which would feature evidence of "sensible, compassionate and effective drug laws".

"It's time to deciminalise now and put people's health first," he said.

"For God's sake, do something about it."

ACT's drug-decriminalisation measures kicked in late last month, when fines and diversion programs were brought in to replace criminal sanctions for people caught with small quantities of illicit substances.

NSW is also introducing a more liberal drug regime, giving police the discretion from early next year to choose non-criminal measures of counselling or fines to deal with people with personal-use quantities of MDMA, cocaine and ice.

But the state government has resisted calls to go further with decriminalisation and remove police discretion from the process and  has rejected calls to introduce a pill-testing regime similar to those in the ACT or Queensland.

Ministers have said the issue will be considered among other harm-reduction measures when NSW hosts the promised drug summit next year.

Uniting NSW.ACT's Emma Maiden said drug use and dependency were health issues and should be treated as such.

"I think we can all agree that reforming our unfair drug laws is long overdue and incredibly important," she said.

Sir Richard has spent a significant amount of time in Australia since the launch of his company's Virgin Blue budget airline in the domestic market in 2000.

He has lobbied governments worldwide for an end to the "war on drugs" and an overhaul of laws to focus on health policies rather than enforcement.