Drug users should face civil sanctions such as fines or the loss of their driving licence instead of criminal penalties, a former government drugs adviser said today.
Professor David Nutt, who was sacked as the Labour government's top drugs adviser after saying ecstasy was less harmful than alcohol, said simply waging war against users will not work.
"What we need is a radical new approach that may include the regulated sale of some drugs," he told the Radio Times.
"Drug use will always be with us, so legal sanctions will continue to fail.
"Some years ago, Portugal abolished this approach replacing it with civil sanctions such as a fine or suspending your driving licence.
"This approach, coupled with treatment initiatives, has been going now for 10 years and drug use, drug crime and drug harms have all reduced by about half, with huge savings to society.
"This should be the way forward in the UK."
Prof Nutt went on: "Drugs policy has to change if we are to make any impact on the epidemic of drug use and drug-related harms that pervade society today."
He said the criminal approach to drugs has failed spectacularly but there was a reluctance to change because most politicians were scared of losing votes if they were to tell the truth about the failed drug policy.
Writing about his dismissal as the Labour government's top drugs advisor last year, Prof Nutt said it was "a bruising experience being beaten up in public by the full weight of the government" but added that it had not changed his mind over drugs policy.
He said he established the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs to "continue the work of gathering evidence and telling the public the truth about all drugs".
Prof Nutt added: "There are alternatives to the failed prohibition law enforcement approach. Many are already evidence-based and others worth testing.
"Drugs policy has to change if we are to make any impact on the epidemic of drug use and drug-related harms that pervade society today.
"More of the same 'waging war' against users will not work."Reuse content