The global "war on drugs" has been a catastrophic failure and world leaders must rethink their approach, a group including five Nobel prize-winning economists, Britain's deputy prime minister and a former US secretary of state has said.
An academic report published on Tuesday by the London School of Economics (LSE), called Ending the Drug Wars, pointed to violence in Afghanistan, Latin America and other regions as evidence of the need for a new approach.
"It is time to end the 'war on drugs' and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies undered by rigorous economic analysis," the authors said in a foreword to the report.
"The pursuit of a militarised and enforcement-led global 'war on drugs' strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage."
Citing mass drug-related incarceration in the US, corruption and violence in developing countries and an HIV epidemic in Russia, the group urged the UN to drop its "repressive, one-size-fits-all approach" to tackling drugs, which, according to the report, has created a $300bn black market.
The UN is due to hold a drug policy summit in 2016. Debate on the merits of drugs liberalisation is already growing, Reuters news agency reported.
|The editor of the LSE report says there is a growing international consensus for change
The report said "rigorously monitored" experiments with legalisation and a focus on public health, minimising the impact of the illegal drug trade, were key ways of tackling the problem instead.
It was signed by George Shultz, the US secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and former NATO and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Nobel Economics prize winners Kenneth Arrow (1972), Christopher Pissarides (2010), Thomas Schelling (2005) Vernon Smith (2002) and Oliver Williamson (2009) also signed the reports.
"The drug war's failure has been recognised by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world's most respected economists," John Collins, coordinator of international drug policy at the LSE, said.
"Leaders need to recognise that toeing the line on current drug control strategies comes with extraordinary human and financial costs to their citizens and economies."
Some countries in Latin America have begun to turn away from US-led attempts to stamp out drugs through prohibition.
Uruguay's parliament in December allowed the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana. Colombia's president has called for a debate on alternatives to the war on drugs. And Guatemala's president has said that his country could present a plan to legalise production of marijuana and opium poppies this year.
Voters in the US states of Colorado and Washington passed backed legalising the possession and use of recreational marijuana in 2012.