Today the Government announced that it will legalise drug checking in New Zealand. After six years of testing by KnowYourStuffNZ, we are glad to escape from legal limbo and be recognised as a necessary service to help keep people safe.
The new legislation lets drug checking be provided by appointed service providers at festivals, events, and other locations.
In the past it has been a legal risk for festival organisers to have our service at their event. The law has meant that organisers have had to turn a blind eye to drug use at events. Pretending drug use isn’t happening is a terrible way to address drug use. This law change means that event organisers no longer have to lie and can be more honest about harm reduction and caring for the welfare of festival-goers.
For this summer season, this means that KnowYourStuffNZ can be more open about our service at festivals. We may be able to say what festivals we’ll be attending and have some signage that actually says what we do. There are practical changes as well – our volunteers will be able to handle the test substances which should speed up our service and reduce queues.
In the longer term, we see this change as being part of a more open and honest approach to drugs. We look forward to drug checking being available to all who can benefit from it. That goes beyond festivals where, let’s face it, we’re serving a mostly well-off, young, and white crowd. Our overall goal is to be part of reducing harm for everyone and anyone who uses drugs.
Our path over the past six years has been to do the right thing, even if the law was unclear, and to gather evidence about the effects drug checking has on drug use and harms. When we went public about our work, we expected to be shut down or even arrested. Instead, public opinion has supported our work. We’ve had no legal difficulties and we’ve grown from a one-person show to a national organisation. Our evidence based approach has made clear the benefits of drug checking and justified the legal changes that we see today.
A very large number of people and events have helped to make this happen. Once we’re over the current buzz, there will be time to thank everyone. That’s a long list:
- our volunteers for their hard and unpaid work,
- the festivals that have taken a legal risk to have us on-board,
- our partners and supporters,
- the NZ Drug Foundation and High Alert for being part of this journey,
- the politicians who have been willing to stand by us,
- the journalists who have helped us tell our story,
- and above all our clients for trusting us and doing the right thing to keep themselves and their friends safe.
For now, we’ll just thank the Minister and the Government and get busy getting ready for this summer season.
KnowYourStuffNZ is a not-for-profit social enterprise funded by donations from the community. If you value our work, please donate.