How being banned can be a blessing

If you want to keep something out, then ban it - right? Wrong. Often, being banned is the best thing possible for getting your message out there.

That was certainly the case at the UN this week, as officials decided to seize a letter signed by more than 1,000 leaders calling for an end to the war on drugs. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sander, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, George Soros, Warren Buffett and yours truly, along with more than a dozen former heads of state, hundreds of other legislators, cabinet ministers, former UN officials and celebrities had signed the letter.

When the Drug Policy Alliance organised performers dressed in brilliant prohibition era costumes to distribute the letter to people entering the UN for the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem, the UN reacted in the best way possible for getting our message out. As participants walked into the building carrying the letter, they had it confiscated by security guards, who said they were following specific orders from the UN to take the letters. They presented no threat to security whatsoever.

This news spread quickly, and call for real reform of global drug control policy will continue to grow. Globally, we’re wasting too much money and precious resources on criminalizing people and sending them to jail when we should be spending this money on helping people - through proper medical care and education. From the perspective of an investor, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were one of my businesses, I would have shut it down many, many years ago.

The UN banning the letter reminded me of how useful this can be for spreading a message the establishment wants to stop. It took me back to 1977, when the BBC banned The Sex Pistols’ controversial God Save The Queen. The ban elevated the band – as well as Virgin Records – to new heights. The police then tried to ban us celebrating the single with a boat party down the Thames on the Queen’s Jubilee. When Malcolm McClaren was arrested and the police shut down the party, we gained even more publicity and notoriety.

It just goes to show, whether it’s the UN or the BBC, the war on drugs or the rise of punk – think twice before you ban anything. And if you get banned, it could be a blessing in disguise.

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