Drug laws are driven by "moral panic" says a new study which concludes that most drugs have been wrongly "demonised".
An independent study also recommended the setting up of "shooting galleries" where users can inject drugs safely.
The two year study by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, or RSA argued that "whether we like it or not, drugs are and will remain a fact of life".
"On that basis, the aim of the law should be to reduce the amounts of harms caused to individuals, their friends and families, their children and their communities."
"The use of illegal drugs is by no means always harmful any more than alcohol use is always harmful," Professor Anthony King of Essex University, the commission chairman told Britain's Daily Telegraph.
Professor King added: "The evidence suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others... The harmless use of illegal drugs is thus possible, indeed common."
The commission, composed of academics, politicians, drug workers, journalists and a senior police officer, said Britain wastes large amounts of money wasted on futile efforts to stop supply rather than going after the criminal networks behind the drugs.
The report, which aims to influence a government drug strategy review due next year, argued that jail sentences should be handed out for only the most serious drug-related crimes and for addicts to be given jobs and housing as part of treatment.
A spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police told AP news agency that the force supported the idea of "measuring the amount of harm reduced and reducing drugs supply by the targeting of organized criminal networks responsible."
But conservative politicians have condemned the report as complacent and wrong-headed.
- NZHERALD STAFF, AGENCIES