New Zealand’s government has put NZD 800,000 (€494,000) towards recreational drug checks at festivals and concerts.
While pill testing in the country has operated to some extent for years, the Labour government only legalised operations in December 2020 to allow for pill testing at last year’s summer festivals.
However, due to a lack of funding, the country’s main provider of drug testing services wasn’t able to operate at most major events.
NZ’s health minister says the new funding will be used to train more drug-checkers and establish national coordination of pill testing services.
“This is not about condoning drug use, but about keeping people safe,” health minister Andrew Little said in a statement.
“There is clear evidence that having drug-checking services at festivals changes behaviour and reduces harm.”
The National Party’s justice spokesman, Simon Bridges, says it’s a “slippery” move towards decriminalisation “by stealth” but the Green Party supports the funding.
“THIS IS NOT ABOUT CONDONING DRUG USE, BUT ABOUT KEEPING PEOPLE SAFE”
A study from Victoria University, released in February, argued the presence of Know Your Stuff at festivals reduced drug use.
The study found 68% of people either disposed of their drugs or changed their consumption habits after checking the drugs at the Know Your Stuff tent.
“Festival organisers who invited Know Your Stuff to their events noted fewer serious incidents related to illicit drug use and emphasised the importance,” says associate professor of criminology Fiona Hutton.
In neighbouring Australia, the live music industry has long been lobbying for pill testing at music festivals – which has been successfully trialled twice in 2018 and 2019.
In fact, nearly two-thirds of the Australian public are in favour of pill testing at music festivals, recent national data shows.
The UK government has also been urged to support drug testingat festivals in order to increase the safety of festivalgoers.
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