United Nations calls for 'global decriminalisation of all drugs' in leaked report
British businessman Richard Branson leaks two page report ahead of publication
The United Nations is set to call on governments around the globe to decriminalise all drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine.
British businessman Richard Branson, who sits on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, announced in a blog he was "delighted" by a new document which appears to mark a significant shift in tone by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UN is understood to dispute Sir Richard's interpretation of the paper - but has not yet issued a formal statement.
A spokeswoman for Sir Richard said he broke an embargo on the information because he feared the UN would have a last-minute change-of-heart.
"Richard has released the announcement ahead of the UNODC due to concern that the UNODC would do a volte-face at the last possible moment," she said.
The two-page document is entitled "Decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal consumption".
It says: "The international drug control conventions do not impose on member states obligations to criminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption.
"Member states should consider the implementation of measures to promote the right to health and to reduce prison-overcrowding, including by decriminalising drug use and possession for personal consumption."
Sir Richard, the founder of Virgin, said: "In an as-yet unreleased statement ... the UNODC, which has shaped much of global drug policy for decades, call on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs.
"This is a refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalisation of millions of drug users around the world.
"My colleagues on the Global Commission on Drug Policy and I could not be more delighted.
"Together with countless other tireless advocates, I’ve for years argued that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime.
"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."
He added that the document had been set for release at the International Harm Reduction conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday.
The Telegraph is reporting that the paper was written by the head of the UN's HIV and Aids section and says the document's launch was delayed from its planned launch over the weekend after concerns over its content.
The UN's International Narcotics Control Board has previously adopted policies towards prohibition of hard substances and has even expressed concern about liberalisation of policies on softer drugs such as cannabis.
An official announcement by the UN is understood to be scheduled for later today.
The document adds: "This document clarifies the position of UNODC to inform country responses to promote a health and human rights-based approach to drug policy.
"It explains that decriminalising drug use and possession for personal consumption is consistent with international drug control conventions and may be required to meet obligations under international human rights law."