Are drug-users criminals?
In her late twenties, she would be the youngest person holding such position.
Then one day, when she was supposed to attend a very important meeting, she failed to show up. Nobody knew where she was. Being single and living alone, with parents miles away in eastern Indonesia, we had no other way to find her other than sending an Intern to her house after hundred of phone calls went unanswered.
In short, she was found dead in her bedroom.
Everybody was in shock. Not one soul ever knew she was a drug user. Not her close friends, not her colleagues, not even her own mother. No one. Pretty, very active, sporty, always on top of the situation and always with very witty sense of humor, the thought of her being a drug-addict had never crossed anybody's mind.
We have failed to recognize that she needed help until it was too late.
And we believe there are many who share Z's problem out there. Stressed-out, feeling helpless unable to fight own addiction, with nobody to share the problem with. Utterly and completely alone.
Right then we realized how we have criminalized and demonized drug-users so much. We shame them, we scare them, we force them into hiding.
Drug users are not criminals. They are people who need our help. They are our friends, our husbands, wives, sons, daughters.
No, we are not defending drug-use, and yes, drug abuse is a problem, a very big problem.
That is exactly the point: the first step in solving a problem is by admitting that we do have a problem. How are we going to ask drug users to admit their addiction if we are going to throw them in jail as soon as they open their mouth?
Drug dealers are criminals. Drug users are not. Drug dealers belong in jail. Drug users don't.
Yes, that's right. We think it is important to decriminalize drug use.
Because if it can happen to Z -- a lovely, smart, highly educated girl with very very bright future ahead of her -- , it can happen to anybody. And if by any chance it happened to any of our loved ones, there is nothing else in the world we would give other than help and support to fight the addiction.
To our Z (1979 - 2006)
We still remember you fondly. Rest in peace.