Celebrities have called for drugs to be decriminalised, saying that the current “war on drugs” is not working and is, in fact, fuelling organised crime and costing the taxpayer money.

In an open letter, Dame Judi Dench, Sting, Julie Christie, Richard Branson and several politicians and former police chiefs urged Prime Minister David Cameron to decriminalise the possession of all drugs.

Celebrities have called for “a swift and transparent review of the effectiveness of drug policies”, citing the fact that nearly 80,000 people in the UK were convicted or cautioned for possessing drugs last year and that most were “young, black and poor”.

The letter, which was published by the campaign group Release, says: “It is clear that the present system of applying the criminal law to the personal use and possession of drugs has failed.”

Sting said: “Giving young people criminal records for minor drug possession serves little purpose – it is time to think of more imaginative ways of addressing drug use in our society.”

Film director Mike Leigh, actress Kathy Burke, three former chief constables and leading lawyers have also put their name to the letter.

The call comes as the Global Commission on Drug Policy – a separate group of former world leaders and high profile figures including former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan – called on governments around the world to “urgently” consider decriminalisation because the war on drugs is not working.

According to the commission, decriminalising drugs will take the power out of the hands of organised crime and save the public money.

Virgin’ Richard Branson, and co-founder of a group of global leaders called The Elders, said: “The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage.”

Instead, he said, it has “filled our jails”, cost the taxpayer millions of pounds, “fuelled organised crime and caused thousands of deaths”.

The Home Office has responded saying said it had “no intention” of changing drugs laws. “We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs are illegal
because they are harmful – they destroy lives and cause untold misery
to families and communities.”