Some drugs should be decriminalised with the least harmful substances regulated and sold in shops, a cross-party group of peers recommends today in a report set to reignite the legalisation debate.
The 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act is in desperate need of reform, the peers argue, as it forces young people into unemployment, homelessness and broken relationships while boosting profits for illegal dealers. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform - which conducted an inquiry into new psychoactive substances - said a system for testing the safety of new drugs should be introduced, with low-risk substances sold with labels detailing their risks, like cigarette packaging.
While the supply of the most dangerous substances should remain banned, users caught with a small quantity of any drug should not be penalised, the Inquiry found.
Presenting the Inquiry findings toay, chair Baroness Meacher, who is also a chair of an NHS trust, said: "The Misuse of Drugs Act is counter-productive in attempting to reduce drug addiction and other drug harms to young people."
The panel - which took evidence from 31 experts and organisations including the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs - said it was time politics was taken out of decisions on the classification of drugs, as the issues involve scientific judgments and are too sensitive for politicians.
Referring to a Portuguese model which has seen the number of young addicts fall under decriminalisation, it said: "Some young people will always want to experiment and they are at real risk if they can only buy the less harmful drugs from the same dealers who are trying to push the most harmful ones.
"The illegal dealers also have a clear incentive to adulterate their product to increase their profits." The group said strict regulatory controls could be introduced with suppliers limited to certain outlets and required to label their product with a clear description of its contents, its risks and the maximum advisable dose.
It is the second time in a month that an influential committee has suggested that Britain's drugs laws are not working.
In December David Cameron rejected calls by the Home Affairs Select Committee for a Royal Commission to consider the decriminalisation and legalisation of certain drugs, leading to a public clash with his deputy Nick Clegg, who argued current policy was not working.