Research into drug checking impacts

A new research project will examine the effectiveness of drug checking programmes at music festivals to find out whether it helps keep people safe and reduces harm.

The Ministry of Health is to fund research by a Victoria University of Wellington criminology team which will study the impact of drug testing at festivals as a potential harm reduction tool. This is the first such study in New Zealand, and will cost $59,000.

“We know recreational drug use is common at music festivals, despite it being illegal,” Health Minister Dr David Clark says.

“There’s no way to make illegal drug use completely safe – all drugs come with risk. But we can and must reduce harm wherever possible.

“As Minister of Health I’m interested in evidence-based policy.

“This research will tell us whether drug checking programmes, such as the work of Know Your Stuff, are making a difference and helping keep people safer.

“This is entirely consistent with the Government’s balanced approach to drug harm reduction. We’re doing what works:”

  • We’re cracking down on the suppliers and manufacturers of illegal drugs, such as synthetics, to get harmful drugs off our streets
  • We’ve written into law that Police should consider whether a health-centred or therapeutic approach would be in the public interest when deciding whether or not to prosecute for possession and use of all drugs
  • We’re strengthening addiction treatment services as part of our record investment to take mental health and addiction seriously

Police Minister Stuart Nash says drug checking activities in New Zealand operate in a complex area with a fine line between legal and illegal behaviour.

“Police support measures that will reduce drug-related harm in our communities. This does not mean Police will turn a blind eye to illicit drug activities. Those dealing and supplying illicit drugs can expect to face the risk of prosecution.

“Police have previously exercised discretion around prosecutions with regard to drug checking activities. Changes in August this year affirmed the Police discretion to not prosecute unless it is in the public interest. Police make these decisions independently.”

“We want to balance a health-based approach to the personal possession of illicit drugs, with the need to maintain criminal enforcement, particularly when it comes to disrupting the supply of illicit drugs.

“The research will combine quantitative and qualitative assessments of the current testing regime carried out by the non-government organisation Know Your Stuff. It is designed to provide a base of evidence before Ministers consider any potential next steps,” Mr Nash says.