Impassioned Russell Brand tells UN that drugs ban leads to 'death, suffering'
This March 21, 2013 photo released by FX shows Russell Brand, host of the FX series 'Brand X with Russell Brand.' Brand spoke to reporters at the 57th Session Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, where he pushed for the legalization of drugs. (AP / FX, Ellis O'Brien)
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 1:04PM EDT
British actor and recovering drug addict Russell Brand made a plea to the United Nations Wednesday, calling for the legalization and regulation of illicit drugs.
While speaking at a press conference at the 57th Session Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, Brand became emotional as he stated his case.
"I think we should legalize and regulate all other drugs," he said. "That's what I think should happen globally, as quickly as possible. (We) shouldn't wait for two years, we should do it now."
Brand called for an end to the arrest and punishment of drug users, noting the violent toll the criminalization of drugs has taken on nations affected by the global drug trade.
"This is a serious issue," he said. "People are getting butchered left and right all over Mexico. People are getting hung in Pakistan and all over Malaysia for something that's not a moral issue."
Brand stressed this last point, insisting that drug addiction and substance abuse should be considered health issues. "It's not a moral issue, it's a health issue," he said.
This isn't the first time the 38-year-old has taken a public position on drug policy. Throughout his career, Brand has talked openly about his struggle with substance abuse.
In a February op-ed published in the Guardian newspaper, Brand called for a change in drug laws after actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of an apparent overdose in his New York City apartment.
"If drugs are illegal people who use drugs are criminals," Brand wrote. "We have set our moral compass on this erroneous premise, and we have strayed so far off course that the landscape we now inhabit provides us with no solutions and greatly increases the problem."
Brand re-stated these points Wednesday in Vienna.
"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 (and) created a negative economy, and deaths all over Mexico, deaths all over Malaysia – unnecessary death penalties," he said.
"Nobody at all is helped by drugs being made illegal, unless of course there is a conspiracy to marginalize, condemn and persecute disenfranchised members of our global community."
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the central drug policy-making body within the UN. Created in 1946, it aims to supervise and review the application of international drug control treaties.
This year's commission convened weeks after the first legalized marijuana stores in Colorado were opened on Jan. 1. Voters in Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Canadian policy regulating the use of medical marijuana is about to undergo major changes. Starting on April 1, Canadians who had obtained a licence to grow their own pot to treat medical conditions will instead have to purchase their marijuana from one of seven federally licensed growers.
The federal government has said that the changes are necessary to curb the rising illegal activity surrounding the existing program. But lawyers in British Columbia are fighting the changes, arguing that patients who have licences should be allowed to continue to grow their own supply.