"By Monday morning, the U.N. announced it had no such intention and that the document merely reflected the author’s opinion.
Even so, the BBC and Branson himself suggest the document was withdrawn following resistance from at least one country.
"It's exciting that the UNODC has now unequivocally stated that criminalisation is harmful, unnecessary and disproportionate, echoing concerns about the immense human and economic costs of current drug policies voiced earlier by UNAIDS, the World Health Organisation, UNDP, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, Kofi Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.”
The document concludes that the U.N. will not force member states to criminalize drug possession and use on a personal scale.
Rather, it suggests that “Member states should consider the implementation of measures to promote the right to health and to reduce prison overcrowding, including by decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use.”
This type of policy has seen success in Portugal, where drugs were decriminalized in 2001 and rates of use decreased. At least one town in Massachusetts has opted to treat addiction to heroin rather than prosecute it.
The paper suggests several strategies like these, including investing in drug-prevention programs and treatment for drug dependency. It makes clear that it advocates decriminalization, in part, “as a key element of the HIV response among people who use drugs.”