Greens want drug-testing legal by summer festival season

The Green Party is pushing for festival drug-testing to become legal in a bid to reduce the number of tragedies at gigs this summer.

Drug law reform spokesperson Chloe Swarbrick says a hardline approach to drugs is not working.

"This illegality has not stopped people from consuming drugs," she told Newshub. "We currently have a massive issue - there are unknown users ingesting unknown substances."

Ms Swarbrick wants a law change before the summer season kicks in.

"It would be primetime to get it done before the end of this year, prior to the festival season."

Some organisations have been operating tests already, but it is a grey area under current legislation. The NZ Drug Foundation says many drugs are "impossible to identify by sight or smell" so many concertgoers don't know what they're actually consuming.

According to its website, festival organisers are at risk of prosecution "because drug checking acknowledges what we all know - people use drugs at festivals".

"Volunteers providing the service are also at risk because even though they avoid handling substances it is unclear whether testing tiny samples amounts to possession."

Chloe Swarbrick.
Chloe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

"It is common sense, it is evidence-based, it will reduce harm and it will save lives," says Ms Swarbrick. "That's what evidence all around the world has shown."

She is confident she can gain support from her coalition partners. Health Minister David Clark said the Government is dealing with drug use as a health and harm reduction issue and has spoken with Justice Minister Andrew Little about drug-checking services.

He is also getting advice on whether the laws could be changed and what the impact of any changes would be.

Austria was the first country to allow drug-checking at festivals in 1997.


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