NZ to legalise pill testing at music festivals

Pill testing will be legal in New Zealand this summer, as the government moves to a harm minimisation approach at Kiwi festivals.

Dec 01, 2020, updated Dec 01, 2020
A Compact FTIR Spectrometer pill testing machine. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

A Compact FTIR Spectrometer pill testing machine. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Health Minister Andrew Little said the government will pass laws to legalise drug checking services – but not possession of illegal substances.

“This is not about condoning young New Zealanders’ use of drugs. We would prefer they didn’t,” he said.

“But the evidence is that when allowed to operate, drug checking services can significantly reduce drug harm.

“The Government is committed to minimising drug harm and to treating drugs as a health issue. I make no apology for prioritising young New Zealanders’ safety.”

Drug checking has occurred at NZ festivals for some time without a legal framework to support it.

Under the Drug and Substance Checking Bill, approved pill testing services will be given an exemption to prohibitions around illegal drug possession.

Mr Little will move the bill through parliament before the end of the year’s sittings on December 9.

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With a parliamentary majority, Labour will face no difficulties with the law tweak, but the bill also has the support of left-wingers the Greens and right-wingers ACT.

The bill will be time-limited for this summer, but Little has foreshadowed implementing a permanent system after thorough consultation next year.

New Zealanders voted narrowly against legalising cannabis in a referendum held alongside the October 17 election, with 48 per cent in support and 50 against.


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