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Potential problems from illegal drug use are challenging because the law allows you only to prohibit use without acknowledging that people will use them anyway. But ignoring this issue does not resolve it. Setting clear expectations for your attendees, providing people with information and tool to be safer, and being honest in your approach will reduce the risk of harm.
Unlike a most bars and nightclubs, music festivals are often in distant locations or designed to be somewhere you can stay all day and night or for a number of days with first-aid, food and shelter provided. So while the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 requires people intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs to be removed from a licensed premises, this can be unreasonable or even unsafe at a music festival. And that's if they're licensed to sell alcohol at all. Therefore, a drug harm reduction strategy and a relationship with Police is a necessity.
Organiser's should strike a balance between their legal obligation to discourage or prevent drug use, and the moral obligation of a responsible host to do what they can to reduce harm to those that will use drugs regardless.
1. Why drug use at festivals is illegal but also risky for other reasons and is not encouraged
2. Information and advice for those that will use drugs anyway.
Drug checking is a free service which safety tests substances to determine their contents. It is offered in New Zealand by KnowYourStuffNZ, a volunteer organisation supported by the New Zealand Drug Foundation. KnowYourStuffNZ has safety tested thousands of recreational substances at various New Zealand music festivals.
Drug checking is harm reduction with the potential to save lives. It arms people with knowledge about the substance they intend to use so they can make better decisions about how they will consume it, if at all. If a substance is not what people expect it to be, most choose not to use it.
Is drug checking legal?
If an organiser allows drug checking to take place, it could be said that they are allowing drug use and that is illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act. But the important thing to keep in mind is that drug checking accepts what we all know – Substance use will occur, cannot realistically be prevented and simply ensures people are safer from harm. It 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