The Home Office has made a U-turn on developments to add drug testing facilities to festivals across the UK, The Guardian reports.
The government was accused by several UK festivals of putting festivalgoers at risk as they appear to have made cuts to the development of drug testing sites.
Festivals will now need to apply for a special licence to set up drug testing facilities on site, which according to Bristol’s Night Time Economy Advisor Carly Heath, could take three months to be approved.
“At the start of festival season, Home Office asks for all drugs checking to now apply for licence, which takes 3 months, is cost prohibitive & requires perm building (not an on-site tent?),” she said on Twitter yesterday. “Effectively. The home office just banned life-saving drug checking.”
At the start of festival season, home office asks for all drugs checking to now apply for licence, which takes 3 months, is cost prohibitive & requires perm building (not an on-site tent?)— Carly Heath (@Carlybag) June 14, 2023
Effectively. The home office just banned life-saving drug checking https://t.co/Xo97Oq64OO
Parklife Festival was unable to set up drug testing sites on festival grounds for the first time in nine years last weekend, a life-saving facility set up annually alongside drug testing organisation The Loop.
Read this next: Drug testing pilot to launch at festivals in Ireland
Last year alone, The Loop was able to identify at least eight MDMA pills in circulation at Parklife that could have been deemed dangerous for their high strength.
Speaking to The Guardian, Festival Republic’s Managing Director Melvin Benn said: “Events at this year’s Parklife are extremely worrying for everyone in the industry, and even more importantly festivalgoers.
“If festival organisers fear their safeguarding measures will be pulled at the 11th hour, then how can we guarantee the wellbeing of our guests?”
The testing facility usually tests on confiscated drugs, and sets push alerts to festivalgoers if they notice anything potentially dangerous. This year was the first time since 2014 that alerts were not sent out.
Read this next: Berlin introduces free and anonymous drug testing
According to The Guardian, this is thought to be the first time that the Home Office has advised a drug testing organisation that it must be granted a Home Office licence to keep testing at festivals.
The Home Office said in a statement that “anyone interested in undertaking lawful activities involving the possession, supply or production of controlled drugs, including those who wish to provide drug testing services, need to apply for a Home Office licence.”
It added: “Festival organisers in consultation with local partners are responsible for decisions relating to drug testing at festivals. We will continue an open dialogue with prospective licensees throughout the festival season.”
[Via The Guardian]
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter