Eulogy: For my beautiful friend,Joep Oomen,

In 1997, I came across the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies spearheaded by Joep Oomen, Antwerp. He was based in a tiny office that made me wonder how he managed to generate so much work, creating an International Coalition of https://www.encod.org/

When Joep asked me to make an address to The European Parliament in 2001, I actually thought he was psychologically-unwell! I could not believe that i, this X-Junky a) had the right or b) would be able to. Expressing my feelings about this to Joep: he stood there in shock saying “but Andria, you have been so dedicated to reform for so long, your experience must be heard by those in power in order for them to understand why criminalising drugs users, is not only destructive to them but also to the society in general…” He gave me a hug, saying if you need any help with it, draft it and I will have a look. Considering English was not his Mother Tongue, and his written English was way superior to mine, I agreed that I would indeed if necessary.

However, the truth is, his faith in me made all the difference. And this was the way that Joep inspired hundreds of people around Europe to become devoted drug policy reformers. we arrived passionate, some knowledgeable some not, but we always went out into the world far more informed AND confident enough to express the key issues to any one and anywhere. These are the qualities of a great leader…By the way, he hated it when we referred to him as leader. He would rapidly remind us that we were all leaders in our own countries, and that if we “have to use that word” at least “use it about yourselves also. Even better don’t use it at all!”

There were days when Cannabis/Marijuana was the key subject matter of discussion and I felt out of my depth – (I was a harm reduction/IDU activist) but Joep would quickly remind me of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who were being denied access to medical marijuana or languishing in jails for laws that made no sense to millions of people. “We lock up Marijuana users and yet encourage the legal sale of Whiskey, a much harder drug: there is something wrong with this picture!” As an X-IDU (injection drug user)I knew all to well the dangers of Liqueur: Hepatologists had insisted my liver was scarred by two viral strains of Hepatitis and I should not drink at all, preferably.

In the end, the high expectations Joep had of his fellow reformers was one of his main successes. He basically thought, if he could do it , any one could. And in this humble spirit and knowing that our work was on the “side of the Angels” we proceeded, addressing the UNODC , the European Parliament and many others. He was always there as admin back up as well as teacher and mentor. Hundreds of us can say we have been so lucky to have been compatriots of his. He has fought for over a quarter of a century for humane and just drug policies and an end to the war on drugs. Joep was co-founder of numerous NGO’s for drug reform, including Encod, Cannabis Social Club Trekt Uw Plant in Antwerp and the Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibiton (VOC) in the Netherlands.

Personally, I found Joep to be one of the kindest, honest and most transparent fellow activists I have ever had the privilege to work with. Even when we disagreed, there was direct courageous communication; no backstabbing nonsense. I was so happy for Joep when he married Beatriz, a beautiful Bolivian compatriot. He also leaves behind two sons and a grandson  (Thanks to Gonzo Media for photo)

I miss Joep a great deal

May he rest in Peace and Power…ALWAYS

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