Russell Brand delivers plea to the UN: Drugs ban leads to 'death, suffering and crime'

The British comedian rubbished claims that UN member states had adopted an international consensus on tackling drug abuse

Jenn Selby
Thursday 20 March 2014 10:28
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Russell Brand tells the UN it needs to rethink its drugs policies
Russell Brand tells the UN it needs to rethink its drugs policies

Russell Brand delivered a typically flamboyant plea to the United Nations to bring an end to the arrest and punishment of drug users, telling it that a ban will only lead to “death, suffering and crime” (scroll down to see the video).

The British comedian, who himself is a reformed drug addict, spoke to a press conference at the 57th Session Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on behalf of the Support, Don't Punish campaign against criminalising drug use.

"There is no reason to pursue this experiment of prohibition which has lasted a century," he told the audience.

"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 and 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 International Narcotics Control Board, the part of the UN that enforces international drug treaties, recently warned that moves to legalise cannabis would present a ''grave danger to public health and well-being''.

The body labelled moves to legalise marijuana in Uruguay and the US states of Colorado and Washington as ''misguided initiatives''.

But Brand rubbished claims that UN member states had adopted an international consensus on tackling drug abuse at all.

"I spoke to people this morning that have told me there isn't a 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."

Casually dressed in a scoop-necked T-shirt with flowing locks, the flamboyant personality was then shown around UN negotiating rooms. He also met with government representatives and campaigners.

Brand recently touted a government petition on Avaaz, calling for an independent review of UK drug laws. So far, the petition has attracted upwards of 100,000 signatures.

He also launched pilots for his recovery community initiative across the UK, which aims to provide recovering addicts with the social and welfare support they need to improve their quality of life in the long term.

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