Interim legislation that is already proving to keep people safer from drugs will be made permanent, Health Minister Andrew Little says.
Research by Victoria University, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, shows that the Government’s decision in December to make it legal for drug-checking services to operate at festivals over the summer is changing people’s behaviour.
“The Drug and Substance Checking Legislation Act 2020 – known as the Drug Checking Act – is already having an impact,” Andrew Little said.
“It allows voluntary organisations like KnowYourStuff to test drugs at events like music festivals to verify they are what people think they are, without running foul of the law.
“The Drug Checking Act will expire in December, and experts are telling us it should be made permanent,” Andrew Little said.
The Victoria University research says that 68 per cent of surveyed festival-goers who used drug-testing services changed their behaviour as a result.
Some disposed of the drugs that had been tested, some reduced the amount of drugs they took, and most [i](87 per cent) said that as a result of talking to the testing team, they understood more about the harmful behaviour involved in taking the drugs.
“Testing the drugs has also made it easier for medical staff to treat people who have overdosed, because they know what they’re dealing with,” Andrew Little said.
Testing as a result of the new law has revealed that large quantities of drugs being sold as MDMA, or ecstasy, is actually synthetic cathinones, a dangerous drug known also known as bath salts linked to deaths overseas and hospitalisations in New Zealand.
Andrew Little said new legislation would be passed this year so that drug-testing services are not left in a legal grey-area.