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Illegal drugs can be an equal or greater risk to attendees than alcohol. Reducing this risk is challenging but ignoring the issue does not resolve it. Setting clear expectations for your attendees, providing people with information and tools to be safer, and being honest in your approach will reduce the risk of harm.
Unlike a bar or nightclub, a music festival can be in a distant location where you stay all day and night or a number of nights with first-aid, food and shelter provided. If licensed to sell alcohol under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, attendees intoxicated from alcohol or other drugs are expected to be removed. However, this can be unreasonable at a music festival. Therefore, a drug harm reduction strategy and a relationship with Police are a necessity. As an organiser, you must skillfully balance your legal responsibility to discourage drug use with your host responsibility to reduce harm.
It is up to you to determine how you balance the intent of the law with your desire to be a responsible host. Actions which which help ensure the safety of your attendees include the following:
|Before the event||During the event|
1. Use of illegal substances at festivals is prohibited, is risky for reasons other than the law, and is discouraged
1. A chill space close to your first aid provider where people who are intoxicated can recover and be cared for
Drug checking, sometimes called pill testing, is a free service which tests substances to confirm their contents. It is offered in New Zealand by KnowYourStuffNZ, a volunteer organisation supported by the New Zealand Drug Foundation. KnowYourStuffNZ has tested thousands of recreational substances at various New Zealand music festivals. Drug checking is harm reduction with the potential to save lives.
Is drug checking legal?
If an organiser allows drug checking to take place, it could be said that they are permitting drug use and that is illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. The important thing to keep in mind is that drug checking accepts what we all know – Substance use will occur and cannot realistically be prevented. Drug checking is offered in various forms in many countries, and the New Zealand Police are regularly consulted about the work of KnowYourStuffNZ.
SEE ALSO: Drug Checking FAQ