By politics.co.uk staff
A collection of celebrities have written to the prime minister to urge a reappraisal of the UK's drugs policy.
The letter, which is signed by actress Judi Dench and director Mike Leigh among others, comes as a team of international figures launch a drive to change global drugs policy.
The development is a further sign that civil society is increasingly turning against the more draconian responses to drug law and searching for alternatives.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg are thought to be private supporters of a more liberal drug policy but such a move would be considered politically impossible. The Home Office quickly said it had "no intention" of liberalising drugs laws.
The letter to the prime minister, signed by actress Julie Christie, singer Sting, former defence secretary and Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth and a collection of former chief constables and leading lawyers, calls on Downing Street to implement "a swift and transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies".
The letter, organised by campaign group Release, adds: "Should such a review of the evidence demonstrate the failure of the current position we would call for the immediate decriminalisation of drug possession.
"The failure of the current UK system of criminalisation is clear. It is time for the UK to review its policy and adopt a health focused, evidence based approach to drug use."
The pop star Sting added: "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."
The letter comes as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former UN secretary general Kofi Annan Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, argued for a similar action to take place at international level.
"There are signs of inertia in the drug policy debate in some parts of the world as policymakers understand that current policies and strategies are failing but do not know what to do instead," the report stated.
It also condemned the "criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others".
A Home Office spokesman responded: "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.
"Those caught in the cycle of dependency must be supported to live drug-free lives, but giving people a green light to possess drugs through decriminalisation is clearly not the answer."