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Brand gives views on drugs strategy

The UK should stop wasting money on policing minor drugs offences and decriminalise the possession of drugs, comedian Russell Brand has said.

The flamboyant film star, who told MPs reviewing the Government's drugs strategy that he had beaten his heroin addiction, said some people could safely take drugs and he was not promoting a "just say no" message. But he called for more help and support for those with the "condition of addiction".

Brand, who has been arrested a dozen times over his drug use, said the legal status of drugs was "irrelevant, at best an inconvenience" and being arrested was just an "administrative blip".

Asked for his views on spending less money on the policing of possession offences, Brand said: "I think that's a brilliant idea. Penalising people for possession of drugs is costly and expensive.

"A good number of times I was arrested was simply for possession and the administrative costs of that would be better spent, I think, on education and addressing the costs of treatment. I think that would be a very, very sensible use of those redirected funds."

He went on: "I'm not a legal expert, but I'm saying that to a drug addict, the legal status is irrelevant. It is at best an inconvenience. If you need to get drugs because you're a drug addict, you're going to get drugs regardless of their legal status so the more money you waste in administering and controlling that ... I think there's a futility to it."

Brand said he became addicted to drugs because of emotional and psychological difficulties, adding "it was rough" and insisting he was not calling for "a free-for-all where everyone goes around taking drugs".

Chip Somers, chief executive of the detox centre Focus 12 where Brand sought help with drug dependency, said: "I think there's an awful lot of money wasted on small-time possession of small amounts of drugs which is just part and parcel of the daily hustle and bustle of using. There's an awful lot of police time wasted on that."

Brand - who arrived at the packed hearing wearing a black hat, gold chains and crosses, and a torn black vest top with jeans - spoke rapidly as he addressed members of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee by their first names, such as "Keith" and "Michael".

During the lively and energetic 30-minute hearing, Brand also called the MPs "mate" and, when pushed for time by chairman Keith Vaz, replied: "Time is infinite. We can't run out of time. Who's next? Theresa May? She may not show up. Check she knows what day it is."

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