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New Zealand becomes first country to fully legalise recreational drug testing

This new move allows people to test at music festivals, club nights and for personal use

  • Aneesa Ahmed
  • 30 November 2021
New Zealand becomes first country to fully legalise recreational drug testing

New Zealand have become the first country in the world to completely legalise testing of recreational drugs and to provide government recommended advisory boards.

This full legalisation of testing will allow users to test their substances at music festivals and for general use without any fear of consequences or repercussions.

Read this next: Not so pure and simple: Drug checking isn't the silver bullet solution

This was part of a bill passed on November 23 which allowed for the expansion of services by a pilot programme designed to test drugs at festivals.

The new law will take effect December 6, as reported by Filter Mag.

The pilot programme, which was approved in December 2020 was set to expire in December 2021.

The Ministry of Health proposed that the pilot be made permanent in April, prompting the creation of new laws.

Read this next: We spent a day at the drugs testing station at Shambhala festival in Canada

According to data published in a report in February 2021, 68 percent of the pilot participants modified their behaviour as a result of using the service, and 87 percent stated they gained a greater understanding of the dangers of drug use after speaking with the persons who provided it.

The bill in New Zealand establishes strong legal safeguards for both those who provide the service and those who use it. It does not make drug possession, purchase, or sale legal.

It means that if a music festival, or any other business, chooses to, it can operate a drug testing on-site facility.

"Information and harm reduction advice to help individuals make informed decisions about drug and psychoactive substance use" can be provided by government recommended providers, which they will publish a list of soon.

Read this next: Bust to boom: How drugs won the war on drugs

Last month New Zealand's government also announced that they would be funding $800,000 NZD ($545,581 USD) towards the training of drug checkers and to coordinate drug safety services- as reported by RNZ.

Sarah Helm, executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation, told VICE World News: “It's really significant and a moment to celebrate,

“This will prevent harm and save lives. Drug checking is a hugely effective harm reduction tool as it gives people accurate information to make safer decisions. We'd now like to see services expand to reach more people.”

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Drug researchers in the UK believe that a similar approach should be adopted by the government here whereby they outwardly state that there is no legal risk of harm by testing.

Katya Kowalski, Head of Strategy at Volteface, told Mixmag: “Drug checking is a necessary and life saving policy. Much of the harm and tragedy from festival drug deaths is avoidable.

"Allowing individuals to test for the purity and strength empowers them to make an informed, safer decision about drug use.

"The UK should follow New Zealand’s pragmatic approach to protect people who use drugs, taking an evidence-based and harm approach avoid further tragedy. If the UK is serious about reducing drug-related harm, legalising drug-checking should be a top priority”

Katya explains that although drug testing does take place in the UK, there are some legal loopholes. Organisations such as The Loop, who test substances at festivals and large scale events, do so by working alongside the police.

There is no written legislation explicitly stating laws around drug testing in the UK, however purchasing individual at-home drug testing kits online is legal.

In the United States and other countries, volunteers who perform the work are at risk of being criminally prosecuted.

Read this next: UK government urged to back drug safety testing at festivals

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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