Greens back le­gal drug tests

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Green Party MP Chloe Swar­brick is call­ing for safety test­ing of drugs to be le­galised ahead of the sum­mer fes­ti­val sea­son.

The idea be­hind recre­ational drug test­ing is to re­duce harm, by let­ting con­sumers of il­licit pills know if the drugs they are tak­ing have been mixed with other dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals.

Drug test­ing has taken place at some Kiwi fes­ti­vals but cur­rently ex­ists in some­thing of a le­gal grey area, as the Mis­use of Drugs Act makes it il­le­gal to know­ingly per­mit drug use in any premises.

This dis­in­cen­tivises fes­ti­vals from al­low­ing drug test­ing ser­vices like the NZ Drug Foun­da­tion’s Knowyourstuff into their venues. Dur­ing the last sea­son, Knowyourstuff found fen­tanyl, a po­ten­tially deadly opi­ate, had made it on to New Zealand’s shores, and that what was be­ing sold as MDMA was of­ten in fact bath salts.

Swar­brick said it was clear recre­ational drug use at fes­ti­vals was not go­ing to stop no mat­ter how hard­line the ap­proach.

‘‘This has re­sulted in un­nec­es­sary tragedy, with un­known users in­gest­ing un­known sub­stances, at times cost­ing emer­gency health sec­tor re­sources, at worst cost­ing lives,’’ Swar­brick said. ‘‘When a dan­ger­ous or deadly chem­i­cal comes up, Knowyourstuff is cur­rently un­able to no­tify the pub­lic be­cause of [the cur­rent law].

‘‘They’re also un­able to ef­fec­tively let fes­ti­val-go­ers know they are on site.’’

She said she was proud the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment was treat­ing drugs as a health is­sue.

‘‘That’s a com­mit­ment con­tained in the Green/labour con­fi­dence and sup­ply agree­ment,’’ Swar­brick said.

‘‘Walk­ing that talk looks like le­gal­is­ing safe drug test­ing.

‘‘We have every op­por­tu­nity to do this ahead of the sum­mer fes­ti­val sea­son, be­fore the House rises for the year.’’

Swar­brick pointed to a re­cent case in Dunedin, where the Otago Uni­ver­sity Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion had pro­posed bring­ing Knowyourstuff on­board for re­ori­en­ta­tion cel­e­bra­tions. The uni­ver­sity re­jected the pro­posal on le­gal grounds.

Ei­ther Health Min­is­ter David Clark or Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Lit­tle would need to draft and pass the amend­ment to the law ahead of De­cem­ber – a hefty task in a short amount of time.

Clark has been wary when asked about mak­ing drug test­ing le­gal in the past but seems to have changed his mind while in gov­ern­ment. ‘‘There is a dan­ger with such ap­proaches that they en­cour­age or are seen to en­cour­age drug use. And the law as it stands must be re­spected,’’ Clark told TVNZ in 2017.

But Clark told the NZ Her­ald last month he had asked Lit­tle for ad­vice on le­gal­is­ing pill test­ing.

Across the ditch,, pill test­ing is le­gal in the Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory, lead­ing to the Aus­tralian Greens call­ing for fes­ti­vals to be held there.

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