Russell Brand calls for more compassion for drug users
Comedian Russell Brand has told MPs that taking drugs should not be seen as a "criminal or judicial matter" and users should be shown more compassion.
Appearing in Parliament, Mr Brand said drug addiction was primarily a "health matter" and decriminalising drugs could be "useful" in some areas.
But he said he opposed a "wacky free for all", saying his life had not been improved by extensive use.
The Home Affairs Committee is looking at government policy and sanctions.
Mr Brand told MPs about his fight against addiction, for which he has received successful treatment.'Pragmatic'
Asked whether he supported the legalisation of drugs, he said he did not believe he was "particularly qualified" to make that judgement and that frequent drug use "did not help me".
"For me what is more significant is the way we socially regard the condition of addiction," he said.
"It is something I consider to be an illness, and therefore more of health matter than a criminal or judicial matter.
"It is more important that we regard people suffering from addiction with compassion and there is a pragmatic rather than a symbolic approach to treating it."'Out of touch'
He said trials in countries such as Portugal showed decriminalisation of some drugs could prove "useful and efficient".
End Quote Russell Brand
There is a degree of cowardice and wilful ignorance about this condition”
He described his frequent arrests for possession of drugs as an "administrative blip" and said resources should be shifted away from the policing of drugs to education and treatment.
"As a drug addict, the legal status (of a drug) is an irrelevance," he told MPs. "At best it is an inconvenience."
He added: "There is a degree of cowardice and wilful ignorance about this condition. There needs to be honesty and authenticity on this issue so Parliament does not look out of touch."
In his 2007 autobiography, Mr Brand spoke about his extensive use of drugs and how his "love" of heroin, in particular, had damaged his relationships, health and career.
He told MPs that he had started taking drugs as a result of a mental and psychological condition - comparing it to a "spiritual malady" - and this was connected to excessive drinking.
Mr Brand appeared alongside the boss of Focus12, the charity which helped with his rehabilitation and recovery.
Chip Somers, the head of the Suffolk-based charity, told MPs there was a big difference between legalisation and decriminalisation and the argument for the latter was much stronger.
He said he favoured an abstinence-based approach to treatment as the best way to "stop harm" to drug users and their families.'Wrong'
Tuesday's session is the fourth the committee has conducted as part of what it intends to be a "comprehensive" study of the UK's drugs policy.
It is also hearing from witnesses opposed to any relaxation of the laws on drug use - journalist Peter Hitchens, Kathy Gyngell from the Centre for Policy Studies and Mary Brett from 'Cannabis Skunk Sense', which seeks to draw attention to the risks posed by cannabis.
Hitchens said the government had "abandoned many years ago" attempts to prohibit the use and possession of cannabis and some Class A drugs - claiming there was a "de facto decriminalisation".
He said that drug use was "wrong" and the law should clearly state this.
Ms Gyngell said cocaine use was only "common in certain circles" and that if decriminalised, the rate of usage would rise sharply.
The committee has previously taken evidence from medical professionals involved in drug treatment and drug education.