Wendy has been active in the field of drug policy since 2002. Educated in social policy and criminology with a focus on drugs at Victoria University, she began drug checking after the prohibition of “party pills” in 2008 when it became apparent that the now-illegal substance BZP was making its way into the illegal drug market after its prohibition. She started checking at music festivals in 2014.
“I grew up in Dargaville and saw first-hand the negative impacts of drug prohibition on people’s lives – problematic use not treated for fear of arrest, criminal records destroying careers, crime peripheral to the illegal market affecting innocent families. I developed an interest in drug policy and its impact on wider social issues, went to university to study it, and was horrified when I realised that the evidence shows prohibition has created more harms that it has solved. I strongly believe that we need a new approach, and when my involvement in event organisation showed a way that I could work directly to reduce drug-related harm, I knew I’d found my calling.
I am a mother of an adult child. Being a parent has a way of focusing your view away from judging what our kids should do and refocusing it on what works to keep them safe. I am heartened to see that parents are often the most vocal in support of our work. Most children will eventually be faced with decisions about drugs, and I aim to make sure their decisions are made with the best information available.”
Educational qualifications: – Bachelor of Arts (Social Policy and Criminology), Victoria University of Wellington, 2013.
Relevant previous research: Second author B. M. Z. Cohen & W. Allison (2015) Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches: The effect of criminalising a ‘legal high’ in Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand Sociology, 30:1. A cohort study of BZP users’ attitudes and habits pre-and-post prohibition, considering evidence for any ‘displacement effect’.
Relevant experience: Event Organiser (2007-2008), (2014-2017). Health and Safety Officer for Festival Event (2007-2010). Providing drug related harm reduction services including drug checking for local community (2008-present), at events (2015-present).
Dr Jez Weston
Jez has a background in materials science, science policy, and the role of evidence in guiding decisions. He used to be a lab scientist, so enjoys the opportunity to go to festivals and do some real bench science, with the goal of keeping people safe.
He provides logistic, operational and strategic assistance to KnowYourStuffNZ.
Educational qualifications: BEng (Materials Science), University of Bath, 1993; PhD (Welding) University of Cambridge, 1998; Grad Dip Com (Economics), Victoria University of Wellington, 2007.
Finn started promoting harm reduction information and services because he felt he had to in order to keep his wider community safe.
He has been active in this area for 3 years, providing reagent testing services at events and in the wider community, disseminating information to his peers and helping out with running ‘Festival Safety’ workshops which include education around drug use. He has also been involved in providing care services or safe spaces at small local, and big commercial events. These spaces often deal with the results of uninformed drug use and they help highlight the need for an ambulance at the top of the cliff, which is what Know Your Stuff provides.
“Having a presence at events and being able to engage with people and provide testing & information services is one of the few ways that I have seen behavior change around drug use that didn’t stem from a negative experience. The feedback has been universally positive and deeply appreciated which makes me know that this work has real value.”
New Zealand Drug Foundation
The NZ Drug Foundation is an NGO driven by the vision of an Aotearoa free from Drug Harm. They focus on providing information services, policy advice and lobbying for drug law reform.
NZ Drug Foundation has been working with KnowYourStuff NZ to promote drug checking as harm reduction, providing support through purchase of the spectrometer and logisitical help, and leading advocacy initiatives.