A new report released today by The Global Commission on Drug Policy is calling for an end to the worldwide war on drugs.

The 19-member group, which includes Richard Branson, former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker publicly unveiled their recommendations online — urging nations to legalize and regulate the use of many illegal drugs.

"Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won," the report states.

Branson, who has regularly campaigned for the decriminalization of marijuana, said during a panel discussion that it's time for a new approach, one that treats people with addiction problems as people and not as criminals. “We need more humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs," he added. "The one thing we cannot afford to do is to go on pretending the ‘war on drugs’ is working.”

To coincide with the report's release, an open letter was presented to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron urging "immediate decriminalization of drug possession" if policies to prevent their use have failed. It was signed by 30 high-profile people — including Sting, Dame Judi Dench, former U.K. defense secretary Bob Ainsworth and three former U.K. police chiefs. 

"Giving young people criminal records for minor drug possession serves little purpose," wrote Sting. "It is time to think of more imaginative ways of addressing drug use in our society."

Naturally, the reports and letter have done little to change some minds. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske broadly rejected the commission's recommendations, calling them "misguided," while representatives for Prime Minister Cameron declared that there were no plans to decriminalize drugs. 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, marijuana arrests now comprise more than half of all drug arrests reported in the United States. A stunning 88 percent (758,593 Americans) were charged only with possession.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Richard Branson urges end to war on drugs
Business mogul joins world leaders, celebrities in calling for a move towards legalization and regulation to end drug-related violence.