Saturday, July 20, 2024

$800,000 to fund festival drug checks

The Government will fund drug-checking services at this summer’s large festivals and events to the tune of $800,000, Health Minister, Andrew Little announced today.

“This is not about condoning drug use, but about keeping people safe,” Minister Little said.

“There is clear evidence that having drug-checking services at festivals changes behaviour and reduces harm.”

Anyone attending events and festivals will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, he said.

Drug-checking services, in which drugs are checked to see if they are what people think they are, were legal for the first time last summer.

“Forty per cent of what users thought was MDMA, or ecstasy, was found to be eutylone, a potentially dangerous synthetic cathinone also known as bath salts and linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations in New Zealand,” Mr Little said.

Research by Victoria University on behalf of the Ministry of Health showed that 68% of festival-goers who used drug-checking services changed their behaviour once they saw the results.

“Some disposed of the drugs that had been tested, some reduced the amount of drugs they took, and most (87%) said that as a result of talking to the testing team, they understood more about the harmful behaviour involved in taking the drugs.”

The Government is providing $800,000 for national co-ordination of services, training of drug-checkers and providing information about the harm that drugs do.

Temporary legislation that allowed drug-testing services to operate legally last summer will be replaced by permanent legislation before the end of the year, the Minister said.

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