Russell Brand wants drugs decriminalized in England

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk

Russell Brand has a serious message, though you might not be able to tell from his wife-beater tank.

Unusually dressed for the occasion, Brand appeared before members of British Parliament on Tuesday, urging them to decriminalize drugs. Instead, drug addiction should be treated as a health problem, Brand proposed, as he donned rocker-casual attire in a black tank top and many necklaces—a look that starkly contrasted those in the room who were wearing full suits.

"If you need to get drugs because you're a drug addict, you're going to get drugs regardless of their legal status. Being arrested isn't a lesson, it's just an administrative blip," Brand told the Home Affairs Committee at the House of Commons in London (the U.K. equivalent of a U.S. congressional committee).

The 36-year-old actor-comedian has struggled with multiple addictions, including heroin abuse, has been arrested a dozen times, and has said he has been sober since 2002.

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Brand appeared before the committee with Chip Somers of Focus 12, a drug rehab organization that guides its participants to abstain—the very place where Brand said he "got clean." The two argued that funding would be better spent on abstinence-based rehab programs rather than on costs associated with arresting addicts.

"Penalizing 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," Brand told the committee.

Brand and Somers also argued for better drug education in schools. "If you don't give them the good and bad of drug use they won't listen to you because there are children in schools smoking cannabis who aren't dropping dead," said Somers, who also criticized the use of methadone to treat drug users.

Brand, who recently divorced pop star Katy Perry, is co-starring in the big-screen musical "Rock of Ages," in theaters June 15. He has starred in such films as "Get Him to the Greek" (2010) and "Arthur" (2011).

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