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Independent evaluation of drug checking welcomed

An independent evaluation into festival drug checking services, announced today by the government, should put to rest political squabbling about a law change allowing these vital harm reduction services to expand, says the Drug Foundation.

“These services have been running in New Zealand for 3 years, with host festivals welcoming the volunteer-run group Know Your Stuff NZ in the face of legal risks. More and more festival hosts and punters want to see drug checking come from out of the shadows and recent polling shows a massive 75% public support for this to happen.

“The only hold-outs have been a few nervous politicians, who we hope will have their concerns alleviated by this independent evaluation,” said Ross Bell, NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director.

“Similar evaluations recently conducted in the United Kingdom and Australia have proven the effectiveness of festival drug checking at keeping people safe. We are confident the robust service provided by Know Your Stuff will get the same seal of approval from independent research.”

Recently the youth wings of NZ First and the National Party have publicly endorsed festival drug checking.

“There is overwhelming public support for these services and the political consensus is strengthening, so we hope this independent research is the final hurdle to be jumped before the government amends the law to allow these services to operate openly without legal risk to themselves or the festivals,” said Mr Bell.

Data routinely collected by Know Your Stuff volunteers demonstrates the effectiveness of the service:

• In 2018/19, 805 samples were tested at 13 events.
In 2017/18, 445 samples at 7 events.
In 2016/17, 330 samples at 9 events.
• 87% of the 2018/19 samples were what people thought they were.
• 62% of people said they would not take a substance that was not what they expected it to be.
• The most common substance detected was MDMA, followed by indoles (usually LSD) and dissociatives (usually ketamine).
• 7 mixtures of MDMA and n-ethylpentylone (a potentially dangerous cathinone) we found. This takes the total number of samples containing cathinones up to 24, 3% of the total.
• When samples were not MDMA, more than half of those samples contained n-ethylpentylone.

Source: Know Your Stuff NZ

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