UK

Russell Brand Calls For Drugs Law Overhaul After Philip Seymour Hoffman Death

06/02/2014 17:35 GMT | Updated 06/02/2014 17:59 GMT
Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
Russell Brand speaks at a press conference to launch a new drug and alcohol education programme, on behalf of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, demanding a change to the way the issues are taught in schools, at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in central London, Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Russell Brand has renewed his call for an overhaul of drug laws, following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, calling the Oscar-winning actor's death "unnecessary", caused by "traditional, prejudicial, stupid" laws.

Police in New York have arrested four people after Capote star Hoffman died from a suspected heroin overdose. Dozens of suspected heroin bags were found near in his apartment.

Writing for the Guardian, Brand said the mainstream had been shocked by the death of Hoffman, because he was not a drug addict punished for his excess.

"If it'd been the sacrifice of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, that we are invited to anticipate daily, we could delight in the Faustian justice of the righteous dispatch of a fast-living, sequin-spattered denizen of eMpTyV. When the end comes, they screech on Fox and TMZ, it will be deserved," he wrote.

Hoffman, conversely is a "middle-aged man, a credible and decorated actor... the disease of addiction recognises none of these distinctions". There is "a complete absence of hedonism," Brand said.

Brand, himself a recovering drug addict, has often been outspoken on such issues. Appearing on BBC Question Time in June, Brand insisted the current law is "not working" but would not explicitly state he was in favour of legalisation.

He told host David Dimbleby: “I don’t like to get drawn on that because I am dealing with this in a very direct way in that people who are suffering from drug problems don’t care about the law, they care about getting the correct treatment which I believe is abstinence-based treatment.”

"Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise drug addicts," Brand said in the piece on Thursday.

"This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work.

"The fact is their methods are so gallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstances to maximise the harm caused by substance misuse.

"What prohibition achieves is an unregulated, criminal-controlled, sprawling, global mob-economy, where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem."

Referring back to Hoffman, Brand wrote: "Would he have OD'd if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered? Most importantly, if we insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance and understanding."

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton, is petitioning for an inquiry into UK drug laws, signed by more than 37,000 people.

It calls for an "authoritative and independent cost-benefit analysis and impact assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 within the next 12 months, in order to provide the evidence for Parliament to pursue a more effective drugs policy in the future".

A government spokesman has said in response to that petition: "The Government has reviewed a range of reports including that produced by the Home Affairs Select Committee, which the Government considered in detail. We welcomed the valuable contribution the HASC report makes to policy development and noted the positive responses in a number of areas.

"The level of acquisitive drug related crime and the need for a radical change in the way we tackle drug use and misuse is why the Government is implementing the most ambitious drug strategy to date with the ‘building recovery: supporting people to live a drug-free life' strand at its heart. "

The Institute For Social And Economic Research recently estimated that a regulated market for cannabis could reduce the government deficit by up to £1.25bn, whilst producing roughly £400m in "net benefit" for the country.

Steve Rolles, the Senior Policy Analyst for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, has argued for a regulated cannabis market under a strict and sensible framework, like the one implemented in Uruguay.

He acknowledged that, for the UK, "it's a long way away," but now that a country has successfully pursued government-led legalisation "it is going to be hard for other places to ignore it."

"It's one of those things where someone had to go first," he said.