Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 31 January 2015

Brand issues plea to UN over drugs

Russell Brand is backing the Support, Don't Punish campaign
Russell Brand is backing the Support, Don't Punish campaign

Russell Brand has delivered a flamboyant plea at a United Nations (UN) gathering to bring an end to arrest and punishment of drug-users.

The actor and comedian, who is a reformed drug addict, told a press conference at the 57th Session Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, there is "no reason to pursue this experiment of prohibition which has lasted a century".

Backing the Support, Don't Punish campaign against criminalising drug use, Russell - dressed in a black scoop-neck t-shirt - attacked claims that UN member states had adopted an international "consensus" on tackling drug use.

The star was shown around UN negotiating rooms and met government representatives and campaigners.

In a typically anarchic style, he said: "My personal experience is, I was using drugs because I was in a great deal of spiritual , emotional and physical pain and what I needed was a solution to those problems a nd what was provided to me to reach that solution was a context of compassion and tolerance.

"What bigger context is there than the planet as a whole? If we can create a planetary context where drug addicts are treated as people with a health issue - not a judicial, criminal issue - that would create the perfect context for us to advance."

He went on: "Nobody at all is helped by drugs being made illegal, unless of course there is a conspiracy to marginalise, condemn and persecute disenfranchised members of our global community. I'd hate to think that was the situation - that certain countries didn't matter, that certain classes didn't matter, that certain races didn't matter.

"So unless that's the situation there's literally no reason to proceed with this experiment of prohibition which has lasted for a century, that has done nothing but bring death, suffering, crime, created a negative economy, and deaths all over Mexico, deaths all over Malaysia, unnecessary death penalties.

"You'll notice I've said the word 'death' a lot.

"What I think we need to look at is an alternative way of thinking, an alternative approach of consciousness."

The head of the the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the UN body for enforcing international drug treaties, recently warned that l egalising cannabis poses a ''grave danger to public health and well-being''.

Moves to legalise marijuana in Uruguay and the US states of Colorado and Washington were branded ''misguided initiatives'' by the body.

Russell said there was no global consensus on dealing with drugs. "I spoke to people this morning that have told me there isn't no (sic) real global consensus around drugs," he said. "For example, in Uruguay cannabis has been made legal, whereas in Singapore you can get the death penalty for using cannabis."

Russell recently backed a Government petition calling for an independent review of UK drug laws, which attracted more than 100,000 signatures of support.

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