A global drive to tackle drug abuse has been launched by former world leaders and other personalities including Virgin chief Richard Branson on Monday.
"There is a growing perception that the ?war on drugs? approach has failed," the Global Commission on Drug Policies said in a statement, as it began an inaugural two day meeting in Geneva.
The commission, a private venture chaired by ex-Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also includes the former presidents of Mexico and Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo and Cesar Gaviria, ex-EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and former Norwegian minister and international negotiator Thorvald Stoltenberg.
"Eradication of production and criminalization of consumption did not reduce drug traffic and drug use," the commission said.
It concluded that the harm from corruption and violence resulting from prohibition "largely exceeds the harm caused by drugs."
The body says the issue is "surrounded by fear and misinformation" and wants to trigger a public debate on the same lines of a Latin American commission fronted by Cardoso, Zedillo and Gaviria in 2009.
Ideas under consideration include changes to the UN's drugs control system, reviewing the success of operations against producers and traffickers, the risks and benefits of penalties for possession and the effectiveness of treatment programmes.