Cannabis vending machines are being developed in US states where the drug has been legalised, while Sir Richard Branson has faced criticism after calling for decriminalisation here in the UK.
Virgin boss Sir Richard co-signed a letter with Caroline Lucas MP and others to The Times, calling for an “alternative drug strategy” and saying the current policy “pointlessly criminalises people”.
Cannabis was recently legalised for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, and three companies are currently developing vending machines for the drug in those states.
Medical cannabis vending machines are already widely in use.
A group of drug experts, including Neil McKeganey of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research wrote to The Times criticising the call from Sir Richard and others.
The letter said: “There are now more medical marijuana outlets in some parts of the US than Starbucks cafés with cannabis-laced soft drinks and medical marijuana vending machines already much in evidence.
“Is this the alternative drug strategy that the signatories to the Times letter are seeking to promote?”
The letter, also signed by the former head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the president of ‘Europe Against Drugs’, warned about “grave dangers for humanity”.
It said: “We need a greater focus on abstinence-focused treatment, prevention, and robust enforcement and we need to strengthen, not weaken, the principle of shared responsibility between nations in how they are tackling their drug problem.”
“At a time when the use of illegal drugs in the UK is in decline we should be wary of those who claim that existing drug laws have failed.”
Sir Richard Branson called on politicians to decriminalise drugs, saying they “would not lose votes”.
He made the comments ahead of an international drugs conference, at which he gave the opening address by video link.
Sir Richard, who is a member of the Global Commission on Drugs, said: “It has been proven in other countries that treating drug addiction as a health issue, not criminalising it, benefits society as a whole.”