‘Evolve’s a go’
Nova Scotia music festival will go on, but drugs won’t be tested
The Evolve Festival in Antigonish this weekend will go ahead, but concertgoers won’t be able to have their drugs tested on site, as the organizers had wanted.
“I signed a waiver that says we wouldn’t do any of the sort at Evolve this year,” said producer Jonas Colter Wednesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, Colter’s insurance company told him it couldn’t insure him if he was going to provide drug testing for people at the festival.
Now, he’s found a new insurance underwriter, but he still can’t provide the service, which he calls harm reduction.
“It’s like an elephant in the room,” Colter said of drug-use at the festival. “Nobody wants to talk about it, but we decided to.”
The testing he had planned to offer would have told festivalgoers what the majority ingredient in their pills or powder was. That means if someone bought ecstasy, they’d be able to find out if it’s ecstasy, or something like PCP or bath salts — drugs that Colter said create problems at the festival.
To Kings North PC MLA John Lohr, that would mean the festival is condoning drug use.
“They should’ve taken the position that they wanted to eliminate the drugs from the event, rather than encourage the drugs in the event,” he said Wednesday.
“These drugs are illegal because they are inherently dangerous to use.”
Colter said the rules of Evolve don’t permit drug use, but it’s something the festival and the police have dealt with for years.
“Last year there were some people who were doing unknown drugs … that were making them temporarily aggressive psychotic that had to be restrained and police had to be called in,” Colter said.
“If we could weed out the especially dangerous drugs at the festival … I think that is to everyone’s favour, including the RCMP.” Lohr doesn’t see it that way. “If the events were drug free I think the police would have less strain on their system,” he said.
Colter said at other festivals, like Shambhala Music Festival in British Columbia, this kind of harm reduction policy is working.
“I want Evolve to be a utopian, excellent festival, and I just feel like this harm reduction doesn’t guarantee it, but if we can get all the truly disgusting drugs off the site, it’s going to help,” he said.
He said he’ll try to implement that policy for next year, and find an insurance provider who will still cover the festival.
But for now, “Evolve’s a go and that’s what’s most important.”
In this file photo, the crowd enjoys Evolve Festival in Antigonish.