Debating drugs on YouTube and Google+

Friday, March 16, 2012 | 5:03 PM

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Whether enabling voters to interview their President, or connect underwater to photograph the ocean floor, Google+ Hangouts are being used in amazing ways. Hangouts not only have the ability to connect people on opposite sides of the planet - they can also connect people on opposing sides of the social and political spectrum.

This week, we partnered with Intelligence2 to launch Versus - our first in a new series of global policy debates using Google Hangouts and live streamed on YouTube. Our inaugural discussion asked whether “It’s time to end the War on Drugs.” Entrepreneur +Richard Branson, comedian +Russell Brand, Wikileaks founder +Julian Assange and the President of Columbia, participated. BBC newsreader and presenter +Emily Maitlis chaired.


Branson began by speaking on behalf of the motion “If my brother, or sister or children have a drug problem, I do not want them to go to prison. I want them to be helped.” Via Google+ Hangout, Brand agreed, saying that we need to “stop treating [addiction] as a crime as opposed to treating it as an illness.” He rejected the opposition argument that legalisation would increase drug consumption.

On the other side, former-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer wished former U.S. President Richard Nixon had never used the confusing term “war on drugs”. Spitzer called instead for a “nuanced” drug control policy, based on the range of tools already being used, that “evolves over time.” The former head of London’s police force, Lord Ian Blair, rubbished his opponents’ decriminalisation argument. “What they are proposing is probably an irreversible experiment, where the result could be complete catastrophe,” he said.

This Versus debate is just the first of many to be hosted on Google+ and streamed on YouTube in the coming months. We encourage all of you to visit the Versus Google+ page and have your say.

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