This article is a continuation of Emerald’s previous article, The Man Behind the Indonesian Cannabis Circle: a Movement to Raise Awareness on Cannabis.
In 2009, Dhira Narayana catalyzed a movement to raise awareness of the potential benefits and usage of cannabis in Indonesia. Narayana’s movement, Lingkar Ganja Nusantara (LGN) — otherwise known as the Indonesian Cannabis Circle — has since gained nearly half a million followers on social media.
In 2007 the psychology graduate published a book called Hikayat Pohon Ganja (The Tale of the Cannabis Tree). That book then inspired another man to advocate for medical cannabis in the conservative country.
Tomi Gumilang is a cannabis advocate, member of LGN and a law graduate who was first introduced to the plant after he fell ill while attending Narotama University in Surabaya, Indonesia.
“I got bronchitis. […] My father sent me to the doctor,” he says. “My organ was full mucus and it was painful.”
“The doctor gave me pharmacy drugs. But the doctor said, “when you are hanging out with your friends, and if there is a smell that smells different when they smoke, that will be your therapy,” Gumilang explained.
“That was the beginning,” Gumilang explains. The doctor hinted to him that his cure was cannabis, “but doctors can’t prescribe it, because it’s illegal.”
Officials strictly prohibit cannabis use in Indonesia. Punishment can result in life imprisonment or death sentences, regardless of the intention of the use.
Three-to-six weeks after Gumilang’s first experience with the plant, he went to the same doctor for a check-up. He then came to find out that the organs that were full of mucus were clean.
After he graduated college, he moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where he worked with non-profit organizations to raise awareness about HIV. There, he asked the head of one of the organizations about groups that supported cannabis legalization. He found Indonesian Cannabis Circle in 2012.
“I went to [Narayana’s] office, and registered as a member [of LGN] directly, and bought his book, called Hikayat Pohon Ganja,” Gumilang recalls.
Gumilang read the book and decided to raise awareness about cannabis on behalf of LGN after the Indonesian High Court swore him in as an advocate in 2016.
As an advocate, he will soon have the right to defend and advocate for cases throughout Indonesia.
As such, he vows “to defend my brothers and sisters who need cannabis for medical treatment but are instead dealing with the law,” he says.
When Gumilang was ill as a student, he felt he was a victim of the prohibited use of cannabis. When he needed medicine, he was not able to get it legally and felt as if the government stripped away his “rights” to healthcare. That’s why he is committed to helping others.
When asked why Indonesia has cannabis in Category One of the Narcotics Law — a category containing the lists of drugs which are most restrictive — Gumilang says it’s a “misunderstanding.”
“For me personally, it is for me to relax. Being relaxed is a part of medical treatment,” he explains.
“But because what makes you relaxed is prohibited, [cannabis] is all crossed out,” he cited. “Because of the misunderstanding, wanting to relax is wrong.”
As part of his advocacy work, Gumilang often takes cases involving clients prosecuted for cannabis. One of his recent cases, for example, involved a man who suffered from epilepsy. He bought cannabis seeds from the black market and grew it for personal use to treat his illness. However, police arrested and jailed him.
“Where is the country when people are sick? Where are they when the people need medical cannabis to treat their illness? Are you deaf?” Gumilang asks, angrily.
“The citizens that should be saved and protected by the country,” he continues. “The country should help them heal. Why should these citizens be in jail instead?”
Though cannabis research can now be done legally, it has not happened yet, Gumilang explains. “That’s why we push for cannabis research.”
“Because of the lack of knowledge that the public has on cannabis, it created fear. The product of this fear is prohibition of cannabis,” Gumilang describes.
LGN has funding for research if the government does not want to spend any capital on studying medical cannabis, says Gumilang. “Because the sick need the medicine now.”
Urgent indeed, as exemplified in 2017 with the case of the wife of Fidelis Arie Sudewarto, which LGN assisted on.
Sudewarto of Kalimantan, Indonesia, was fined 1 billion Rupiah ($75,000) and sentenced in jail for eight months for his attempts to save his wife’s life by growing medical cannabis, Tempo reports.
Unfortunately, his wife died 32 days after police took Sudewarto into custody, Kompas reports.
“It was the tipping point of medical cannabis use in Indonesia,” Narayana, founder of LGN explains.
“Fidelis called us at the beginning for help, but eventually he got a hold of his sister’s friend who happened to be a lawyer. He handed the power to the lawyer,” Gumilang explains.
As the case went on, “LGN surrounded the media to voice out Fidelis’ medical campaign,” he continues. “So whilst the lawyer defended Fidelis, we pushed forward this advocacy and we were putting together the case for the media, so people would understand that he planted cannabis for his sick wife.”
Just recently, Gumilang confirmed that the Regent of Central Aceh, a province in Indonesia, “is ready to be the host province whenever the state is ready to do research on cannabis.”
People in the province have used cannabis historically since the 16th century for medical, spiritual, and cooking purposes.
Both Narayana’s and Gumilang’s hope is not that far; to start medical cannabis research soon, and for the public to see cannabis as an asset that could be beneficial for the country medically, culturally, spiritually, and economically.