Virgin Group founder and social entrepreneur Richard Branson has joined the Honorary Board of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the U.S.-based organization that is fighting for alternatives to current drug policy that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.
The DPA Honorary Board includes prominent figures from both the left and the right who are renowned for their leadership in the fields of law, health, business, media and politics - from Harry Belafonte, Russell Simmons and Sting to the former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker.
In the past year, Branson has stepped out as a prominent supporter of drug policy reform. His involvement with the Global Commission on Drug Policy electrified the global media and brought a new level of attention to the growing movement to end the 40-year-old War On Drugs.
The Global Commission is comprised of Branson, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, four former presidents, (including the commission's chairman, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil), and several other distinguished world leaders.
"The time and energy that Richard has given over the past year to advance drug policy reform is extraordinary given all the other demands on him, "said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the DPA. "I am grateful and delighted that he has joined the Honorary Board of the Drug Policy Alliance.
"His commitment to this cause - combined with the enormous respect in which he is held by leaders in business, politics and entertainment - provides us with an ally of enormous importance," Nadelmann said.
Speaking by videophone to attendees at DPA's Reform Conference last November, Branson said, "I think it became clear to all of the commissioners that the war on drugs has failed, and that what we need to do is to treat drugs as a health problem, not as a criminal problem."
Recently, Branson wrote a passionate piece in London's Daily Telegraph calling for a new approach to global drug policy.
The good news about Branson was tempered by the recent passing of three DPA Honorary Board members: Walter Cronkite, Vaclav Havel, and Patrick V. Murphy.
Cronkite, a broadcast journalist who served as longtime anchorman for the CBS Evening News, was known as the "most trusted man in America." Havel was a Czech playwright, poet, dissident and politician who became the ninth and last president of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003). Murphy served as the top law enforcement executive in New York City and Washington, D.C., and is best known for leading the NYPD in the early 1970s through one of its roughest periods as he instituted reforms to root out corruption, establish performance standards, and develop what became known as "community policing" tactics.
DPA Honorary Board
Former Mayor Rocky Anderson
Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci
Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
Walter Cronkite [1916-2009]
Dr. Vincent Dole [1913-2006]
Former President of Switzerland Ruth Dreifuss
Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders
U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner
Former Police Chief Penny Harrington
Former President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel [1936-2011]
Former Governor Gary Johnson
U.S. District Court Judge John Kane
Former Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
Former Police Chief Joseph McNamara
Former Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy [1920-2011]
Dr. Beny J. Primm
Former Mayor Kurt Schmoke
Dr. Charles Schuster [1930-2011]
Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet
Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker