Drug Activist Joep Oomen dies at 54

An online memorial to show support has been opened here.

ANTWERP – On Friday, March 18th, 2016 Joep Oomen has unexpectedly passed away in his home in Antwerp, Belgium. As an activist 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.

Joep Oomen, Cannabis Bevrijdingsdag 2015, Antwerpen (© Gonzo media)
Joep Oomen, Cannabis Bevrijdingsdag 2015, Antwerpen (© Gonzo media)

At an emotional gathering of Trekt Uw Plant in Antwerp the sad news was communicated to the members of the club. After Joep failed to show up for a club meeting on Friday, two board members went to his house. A board member happened to have the key, and after contact with and consent of Joep’s eldest son, they went inside. They found Joep dead in his bed. The police conducted an investigation and rules out a non-natural cause of death. Joep leaves behind his wife Betariz, two sons and a grandson.

In 1993, Joep was one of the founders of Encod, the European Coalition for just and effective drug policies. As Encod coordinator he was the driving force behind a unique coalition of organizations and individuals from almost every European country. In 2006, he founded Trekt Uw Plant, the first Cannabis Social Club in Belgium. The club operates on the basis of a judicial directive that allows adult Belgians to grow one cannabis plant for personal use. After a long, hard fight TUP was acquitted twice by the court. The club currently has around 400 members. This pioneering work in Antwerp inspired Michel Degens to start Mambo Social Club in Hasselt in 2014.

Actie Hamer bij de achterdeur van de Tweede Kamer, september 2010 (Foto: Jurriaan Brobbel)
Operation Hammer at the House of Representatives backdoor, September 2010, september 2010 (Foto: Jurriaan Brobbel)

In his native country the Netherlands, Joep remained active as well. He organized the Cannabis Tribunal in The Hague and was co-founder of the VOC, the Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, which emerged from this first Tribunal. He was a board member of the Legalize! Foundation in Amsterdam and an exemplary debate leader at the monthly VOC meetings, with infinite patience and great diplomatic talent. He used these skills too as treasurer of the Latin American Federation in Antwerp, at the Friends of the Coca Leaf and at Het Klooster (the Convent) in Antwerp, where he organized shelter for the homeless for years.

On the VOC website, chairman Derrick Bergman writes: “Joep was the kind of activist you only very rarely come across. He combined a seemingly inexhaustible drive and perseverance with impeccable integrity and transparency. Joep spoke fluent Spannish since his studies in Amsterdam in the eighties, he became half-Flemmish in Antwerp, but in the end he was primarily a world citizen.” “I consider myself lucky to have known Joep and to have worked closely with him for eight years with the VOC and Encod. He was not only a hugely effective and inspiring activist, but also a very dear friend.”

The funeral / farewell meeting will take place on Tuesday March 29, 11.30, Crematorium Schoonselhof, Wilrijk, Antwerp, Belgium.


Hoorzitting over cannabis in het Europees Parlement, december 2010 (© Gonzo media)
Hearing on cannabis at the European Parlement, December 2010 (© Gonzo media)
Joep tijdens het eerste Cannabis Tribunaal in Den Haag, december 2008, met Ben Dronkers, Freek Polak en Job Joris Arnold
Joep during the first Cannabis Tribunal in The Hague, December 2008, with Ben Dronkers, Freek Polak and Job Joris Arnold
General Assembly Encod, Amsterdam, september 2015 (© Gonzo media)
General Assembly Encod, Amsterdam, september 2015 (© Gonzo media)
Joep Oomen, Cannabis College, juni 2010 (© Gonzo media)
Joep Oomen, Cannabis College, juni 2010 (© Gonzo media)

Comments (19)

  • Roger Christie 20/03/2016 at 7:01 am Reply


    Aloha. I’m sad to see the passing of this good man as I’m thankful for his work for human rights. May he rest in peace.

    With love and respect,

    Roger Christie

    Pahoa, Hawai’i



  • Gaby Kozar 20/03/2016 at 2:31 pm Reply

    We are all mourning and suffering because of this huge loss. Condolences to Joep’s family. One of the kindest and most peaceful persons I have ever met in my life. Joep and Beatriz were our best men at our wedding in Peru, these are moments we shared and we will never ever forget. Thanks a lot Joep for everything you have done for the whole world and in your name – let’s finally end the war on drugs!

  • Ethan Nadelmann 20/03/2016 at 3:35 pm Reply

    So sad to read this news of Joep’s passing. Last saw him in Irun, Spain six months ago, where we talked frankly as friends of some of our disagreements. I’ve known Joep since the 90s and always admired his passion and commitment to our shared cause. ENCOD was lucky to have him as a co-founder and coordinator. And his bold leadership on medical marijuana in Belgium made history. R.I.P, Joep. Ethan

  • Rose labrouste 20/03/2016 at 4:38 pm Reply

    I met him once and noticed how charismatic and generous man he was. Rest in peace Joep. We’ll go on for the legalisation of cannabis and for more justice in drug’s policies in Europe and all over the world.

  • Peter Fronczek 20/03/2016 at 6:54 pm Reply

    Wat naar, tijdens mijn jaren in het team van het Cannabis College hem altijd gezien als een pilaar voor ons en de gehele Cannabis community, hij zal gemist worden.

  • bruno 20/03/2016 at 7:26 pm Reply

    Joep was a great man, we miss him already. He was not only devoted to the cause against prohibition, he was also devoted to the people.

    Condolences to his family and all his friends and relatives

  • urki goñi 21/03/2016 at 6:56 am Reply

    I am very sad because you have gone and without words to say anything but THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING MATE!

  • Marc Hanke 21/03/2016 at 1:30 pm Reply

    Danke für deine Motivation und den Mut zur guten Sache.
    Ich hoffe du konntest dir deine lockere Art beibehalten.
    mach’s gut.

  • Michael Kleim 21/03/2016 at 3:44 pm Reply

    R.I.P. i think you can find the universal peace now
    Michael Kleim, gera

  • Berne 22/03/2016 at 9:04 am Reply

    R.I.P. Joep – From the Swedish drug Users union / Berne Stalenkrantz chairman SDUU

  • Pat O'Hare 23/03/2016 at 1:15 pm Reply

    This is just such a sad thing. I have known this wonderful man who fought against the injustice of the drug war with great integrity, honesty and passion for over 25 years. I am completely owerwhelmed with sadness. My condolences to his family. Joep, you really were one of the nicest people I ever knew. Pat

  • Madosa vzw 23/03/2016 at 3:20 pm Reply

    Dear Joep,

    We @ Madosa vzw (where Trek uw plant activities takes place) will truly miss you!

    Love and respect
    Madosa vzw

  • Paul-Emile Dupret 29/03/2016 at 5:16 pm Reply

    Hay hombres que luchan toda la vida, esos son los imprescindibles. Nos veíamos a menudo en diversos lugares, en reuniones en Europa, en Bolivia, en el Parlamento europeo para hacer avanzar la causa de la liberalización del cultivo y del comercio de la hoja de coca. Hemos perdido un gran luchador, un gran amigo. Con una gran inteligencia para dedicarse a fondo a ese tema, el asunto de la droga, que es utilizado para romper resistencias; con una enorme constanza y tenacidad, un enorme compromiso; y con una capacidad de congregar gente, de luchar con fraternidad y con gran libertad. Gracias Joep por tantos momentos hermosos pasados juntos, demasiado pocos. Gracias companhera Beatriz por haberlo acompanhado con tanto cairino y amor. COMPANHERO JOEP OOMEN, PRESENTE, PRESENTE, PRESENTE ! AHORA Y SIEMPRE !

  • Ian Harris 04/04/2016 at 9:52 pm Reply

    I first met Joep Oomen at the Red Barracks within the Christiania free settlement, Copenhagen, Denmark in 2004. There to attend ENCOD ‘S AGM.
    Joep was an unassuming and honourable man this became quite
    This first meeting with Joep led to further collaborative work in
    which we worked together. Working with Joep

  • Ian Harris 04/04/2016 at 10:14 pm Reply

    Cont’d, was a priviledge. Joep was a friend and colleague. I feel
    Privileged to have known Joep Oomen.
    Joep Oomen R.I.P.

  • Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt 22/11/2018 at 2:06 pm Reply

    I miss this dear friend and fellow activist so much. He inspired confidence in me and hundreds of other drug policy reformers in Europe. May he rest in Power, as well as peace

  • Georges Meinig 21/02/2019 at 10:58 am Reply

    Who’s afraid of Joep Oomen ?

    How does a man not stricken with degenerative disease, with all faculties intact, at the pinnacles of his forces, die at 54 in his sleep ?

  • webmaster 25/02/2019 at 11:26 am Reply

    Hello Georges,
    Joep died of a heart attack and had a history of heart failure in his family.
    Derrick Bergman, VOC chairman

  • Paul J. von Hartman 21/12/2019 at 11:40 pm Reply

    Joep was a soft-spoken Cannabis cultural diplomat, gracious, kind. He is much missed, by many good people who share his dream of peace & freedom.

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