The war on drugs is a waste of time, money and lives. It cannot be won. The world’s drug warriors are out of ideas.

Fresh thinking is of the essence. Governments should consider legalizing drugs to take profits out of the criminal trade.

Filling prisons with drug users does nothing to curb the billion-dollar illicit business, one of the world’s richest. Drug use is a public health problem, not a crime. Arresting small-time dealers does little but create a market opportunity for other small fry. Destroy drug crops in one region and cultivation moves to another. Cut a supply route in one place and another one opens up.

By one group or another, each of the above points has been made about long-running drug policies that bring to mind Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

But never before has such criticism come from an international panel of establishment figures with such high profiles as the Global Commission on Drug Policy which presented a devastating assessment of the drug war in New York on June 2. Its 19 members include former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, three former Latin American presidents (of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia), former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, Richard Branson, the flamboyant billionaire chairman of the Virgin group, and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.