Festival drug checking here to stay as law passes third reading

Local culture 24/11/2021

Drug-checking services like Know Your Stuff have been given the green light to continue testing the safety of illicit substances at festivals and other locations over summer.

Legislation confirming the permanent continuation and eventual expansion of the service passed its third reading yesterday.

According to RNZ, Health Minister Andrew Little said "The drug-checking services we have had running have detected and intercepted potentially deadly substances circulating in the community."

"Last summer, 40 percent of the MDMA that was tested turned out to be eutylone, a potentially dangerous synthetic cathinone also known as bath salts and linked to deaths and hospitalisations."

This comes one month after the government announced it would contribute $800,000 towards national co-ordination of services, training of drug-checkers and providing information about drug harms.

The bill passed 87 to 33, with just National in opposition, and is expected to come into effect on 7 December.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm said the law was the biggest advance in the area since needle exchanges were introduced more than 30 years ago.

"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," she said according to RNZ. 

"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."

George FM Breakfast spoke with Know Your Stuff managing director Wendy Allison about the bill and what to expect this summer - check out their chat up top.