Police minister's plan to legalise pill testing at summer festivals derailed as NZ First says it encourages drug use

Source: 1News

Drug testing at music festivals will not be legal in time for the summer season, with Police Minister Stuart Nash struggling to get backing from New Zealand First.

Mr Nash said in January the move would save lives and hospitalisations, but has now said his plan to get it legalised has failed. 

Festival owners are currently reluctant to openly back the drug testing as it is still illegal, but some events have the testing on-site.

“It is something I'm passionate about - I just can't get it across the line,” Mr Nash said.

“It doesn't mean I stop. It just means that we probably are not going to get it in place legally for this coming festival season.”

Drug testers are particularly worried about high-dose MDMA pills this summer, which has already led to deaths overseas.

NZ First law and order spokesperson Darroch Ball said drug testing could legitimise and encourage drug use.

“We're acting at the wrong end here. We're being very reactionary if we think it's okay to start saving lives or to start protecting people after the drug has been taken or after it's been purchased,” he said.

But when asked by 1 NEWS if his party was opposed to drug testing at festivals, NZ First leader Winston Peters said he "wouldn't want to give you an answer now. I don't know if you're correct about that".

The Greens’ drug reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said rolling out drug testing overseas has made drug-taking safer. 

Jez Weston of the festival drug testing organisation KnowYourStuffNZ said, “We just want to get on with it, providing a service that is keeping people safe. We don't want anyone to die and frankly Darroch Ball is putting people at risk.”

New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said Mr Ball “has to get real”.

"People are going to festivals and to other events and they are making a choice. And at the moment that choice is to consume drugs that are potentially risky," he said.

It was the interception of dangerous drugs laced with pesticide at the Rhythm and Vines festival in Gisborne in January that prompted the police minister to push for the testing.

Pill testing allows people to check that the drugs they are planning to take are safe and are what they claim to be.