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OK with drug check service

Drug use is not condoned at Rhythm and Vines but since it is a reality among a minority at music festivals, R&V organisers are prepared to have drug-check service Know Your Stuff on site to help keep patrons and staff safe, says festival co-founder Hamish Pinkham.

A recent law change means the service can now legally handle, with time-limited protection against prosecution, drugs brought to them by patrons. The service collects data on what substances have been found in the submitted drugs so the user can make an informed choice.

Almost one in 10 samples were not what the owner thought they were, the Know Your Stuff website says.

“When a substance was found to be not what the owner thought it was 52 percent of people said that they would not take the substance.”

Mr Pinkham said Rhythm and Vines had a duty of care “to ensure our patrons get home safely”.

“Of course we don't condone drug use at the festival but we are in support of anything that gives clarity to protect festival-goers and staff.

“The more awareness we have around drug use the better.”

Festival organisers work closely with authorities to prevent drug use, and with services such as St John to help keep festival-goers safe.

In 2018, Tairawhiti DHB announced on its Facebook page that drugs seized from the Rhythm & Vines site “have been found to contain dangerous compounds such as pesticides and industrial paint compounds as well as other drugs including antibiotics and paracetamol”.

Warnings about the dangerously adulterated drugs were sent to festival-goers' phones the same day. But before the change in legislation this week, drug checking services such as Know Your Stuff, who test festival-goers' drugs for high risk substances and dangerous impurities, and offer safety advice, had operated illegally.

The Government's time-limited legislation now gives legal certainty to drug-checking services. In the new year, the Government will develop regulations so by this time next year, a full system will be in place to regulate drug checking service over the long term, said Minister of Health Andrew Little.

“This gives welcome reassurance to those operating the services, and festival organisers who host them, that they will not be criminalised for their efforts to keep young New Zealanders safe this summer.

“Few of us would be comfortable at the prospect of our young family members and friends taking potentially dangerous illegal drugs at festivals, but our preference is they are safe rather than harmed.”

Preliminary findings from a recent Victoria University of Wellington study found most people who have their drugs checked change their behaviour, and come away with increased knowledge of how to keep themselves and their friends safe, he said.

“This is in line with international research.”

R&V was a progressive festival, Mr Pinkham said.

“Sustainability is paramount. We want to run the best festival possible within the legal framework. If the rules change we will adapt as required.”

  1. Herb Brown says:

    This is so wrong! Pills that are manufactured and then cut by whoever, that can and have killed people through a single dose, are OK – but cannabis that grows in our God-given earth is illegal. Wake up Gisborne!
    PS, it’s not a minority of party-goers, it’s a majority! As a parent I would rather they have cannabis than manufactured pills!

    1. Eruera Arano says:

      Party pills like mdma are still illegal, so they’re no different to cannabis. Nothing has changed on that front