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April 25, 2012

Russell Brand calls on MPs for drug policy rethink

Comic tells a Commons select committee that addiction should be treated as a health issue

Russell Brand calls on MPs for drug policy rethink

Russell Brand has told Parliament that drug addiction should be treated as a health matter rather than a criminal issue.

The actor and comic, who is a former heroin addict himself, was appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, where he admitted to having been arrested around 12 times for drug possession.

According to The Guardian, Brand was careful to point out that he was not "banging the drum" for legalisation, but did not want to be part of a "just say no" campaign either. However, he did say that it would be "a brilliant idea" if the policing costs of "nicking people for possession" were instead used to fund treatment and drug education programmes.

Commenting on the current drugs policy, Brand said that he did not believe addicts cared about the legal status of substances, or of the consequences of taking them: "I don't think they are going to be affected because they’re normally on drugs. But he added that an abstinence-based recovery approach was the only way forward, saying "we don’t want to discard people by writing them off on methadone and leaving them on the sidelines."

During the session, Labour minister Keith Vaz (pictured with Mitch Winehouse) asked if he had been arrested "roughly" 12 times, to which Brand replied: "Yes, it was rough." When the veteran Labour MP, David Winnick, gently suggested he shouldn't treat the committee as a variety show, Brand said that it reminded him more of Dad's Army.

When the MPs suggested that, as a celebrity, he could be a role model for young people, Brand responded: "Who cares about bloody celebrities? Their role is insignificant." Instead, he said that he wanted to ensure that young people with addiction are treated with "truth and authenticity".

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