The NZ Drug Foundation is celebrating the passing of the Drug and Substance Checking Legislation Bill (No 2) today, which provides a new permanent legal framework for drug checking services at festivals and clinics.
Executive Director, Sarah Helm, says it is a huge moment in the history of preventing drug harm in New Zealand.
“This is truly a moment to celebrate. It has been over three decades since the last significant gain was made, the creation of the needle exchanges in the late 1980s,” says Helm.
“For years, pioneering drug checking provider KnowYourStuff has been delivering this service with our support, working in the margins of the law at great risk to themselves to prevent harm to others. Today, it’s important we acknowledge the tireless and brave work of these volunteers, particularly Wendy Allison.
Helm says drug checking has proven to be a hugely effective harm reduction tool that saves lives by providing people with accurate information to make safer decisions. She is keen to see access expanded beyond festivalgoers.
“This new law provides a great opportunity to expand availability of services to more vulnerable communities,” she says.
“Many of our communities most at risk of overdose would hugely benefit from this health service, like people who use injected drugs and people who are homeless. This health service shouldn’t just be for festivalgoers.
“We would like to see more widespread availability of drug checking through needle exchanges and social services as soon as possible – in the next year.”
Helm says that drug checking gives people vital information to make safer decisions. A KnowYourStuff report found that 68% of people who used their service between April 2020 and March 2021 said they would not take a substance after drug checking found it was not what they thought it was.
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