LISTEN TO GREEN MP CHLOE SWARBRICK AND THE DRUG FOUNDATION'S SAMUEL ANDREWS
The Green Party is pushing for drug-checking to be legalised in time for the festival season this summer, following last summer where 21 per cent of pills were not what festival-goers thought they were.
Non-profit group Know Your Stuff NZ has covertly carried out testing of Ecstasy, MDMA and other drugs at music festivals for the last three summers.
The group's data from last summer's festival season found that 21 per cent of tested pills were not what people thought they were, and sometimes contain dangerous substances.
But Know Your Stuff NZ operates in what it calls a legal grey area, and has been lobbying for the Misuse of Drugs Act to be amended to legalise its service.
Section 12 of the Act makes it a criminal offence to knowingly permit a venue to be used for drug consumption; the presence of pill-testing at events effectively means the event organisers know that people use drugs there.
Green Party drug-reform spokeswoman Chloe Swarbrick said Know Your Stuff NZ helped people avoid unnecessary tragedy, "with unknown users ingesting unknown substances, at times costing emergency health sector resources, at worst costing lives".
Making the service legal was common-sense, as festival-goers are unlikely to stop taking drugs, she said.
"When a dangerous or deadly chemical comes up, Know Your Stuff is currently unable to notify the public because of the [Misuse of Drugs Act]. They're also unable to effectively let festival-goers know they are on site."
Health Minister David Clark has asked Government officials for advice on the matter. But even if Labour supported the move, they would need the support of National or New Zealand First to amend the law.
New Zealand First justice spokesman Darroch Ball did not respond to requests for comment.
National Party justice spokesman Mark Mitchell said he had not heard of the service, but his gut feeling was not to support it.
"It's a ridiculous proposition, effectively setting up a regime to test what we as a country have said is completely illegal. They shouldn't be in possession of those drugs."
Swarbrick noted that the Government wanted to treat drugs as a health issue.
"Walking that talk looks like legalising safe drug-testing. We have every opportunity to do this ahead of the summer festival season, before the House rises for the year."
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is among those who have called for drug-checking to be legalised. She said in March that she did not think this approach would "green-light" drug use in New Zealand.