The Government tonight ruled out any shift in drugs policy despite a damning report by an influential group of MPs which said Britain was failing to tackle drug barons or the multi-billion pound global profits of their illegal trade.
The MPs said the current policy was not working and called for major reforms, but the Government swiftly ruled out any prospect of following the lead of several US states in decriminalising cannabis or calling a Royal Commission to examine the country's drugs policy.
The demand for a commission was the centrepiece of a 147-page report by the Home Affairs Select Committee which found that the current policy was not failing to do enough to tackle the dealers or help users emerging from addiction.
It also called for an examination of other countries which had introduced more liberal drug regimes, including Portugal where users are not prosecuted for possessing small amounts.
It warned that the failure to deal with the issue would lead to future generations being crippled by the social and financial burden of addiction. Ministers should, it said, open discussions with the UN on ways to tackle the drugs trade, including "the possibility of legalisation and regulation".
However, a Government spokesman said: "Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and blight communities. Our current laws draw on the best available evidence and as such we have no intention of downgrading or declassifying cannabis."
The report called for senior bankers to be made criminally liable for the laundering of drug proceeds through their institutions – annual global profits were said to exceed $380 billion. It said the current system of fines from regulators was insufficient for complicity in an international criminal network that "causes many thousands of deaths each year".
"Without a tougher approach… the UK will remain in the absurd position of permitting the legitimate funding of drugs barons while fighting against them," said Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee.
The committee also called for more action against the sellers of so-called "legal highs" who escape penalties even if users died after taking them. Retailers can escape current controls by putting "plant food" and "not for human consumption" on the packet, the report said.
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