“We need to change the law. There should be no more [distinction about] users … so that dealers don’t shield themselves behind the definition of a user,” said Budi Waseso, the new chief of the Indonesian National Narcotics Board (BNN), who recently proposed an end to BNN-funded rehabilitation programs.

Despite being home to millions of drug users, Indonesia has long been known for its hardline attitudes towards drug-related issues, ranging from its disproportionate prison sentencing, problematic rehabilitation programs, to the stigmatization and generalization of drug use.

It all began to intensify when President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) declared war on drugs. Jokowi, who was initially known for his down-to-earth attitudes and promises in regard with improving the nation's welfare system and accountability, suddenly decided to raise the issue of drugs following the dramatic executions of drug traffickers in April. Since then, the largest Southeast Asian nation has strengthened its anti-narcotics stance, working together with other ASEAN countries as one of the major supporters of the outdated prohibitionist approach towards drugs.

While facing criticisms, Jokowi argued that 40 to 50 people died each day because of illicit drug consumption, while 4,5 million Indonesians required rehabilitation programs. This statistic raised many questions due to its highly problematic research methodology, expressed through an open letter initiated by the Indonesian Drug Users' Network (PKNI) as well as signed by 16 prominent academics, religious leaders, and human rights activists in Indonesia. Despite this, the aforementioned number kept resonating in the media, accompanied by the increasing amount of news reports on drug arrests and seizures.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Tomii