A musical festival became the first event in the UK to allow partygoers to have their drugs tested and were then allowed to take them. The scheme launched as part of an agreement with the police, allowed the partygoers to have the contents of their drugs checked before they consumed them.
Over 80 “substances of concern” were tested on the first day of the festival. With over a quarter of those tested being disposed of by the partygoers after finding out that they weren’t what they thought they were. Those who opted to have their drugs tested did not have their drugs confiscated after the testing process.
Around 200 hundred individuals took advantage of the testing service.
At the party, very high strength ecstasy pills were found to be in circulation. Many substances were found to be anti-malaria tablets sold as ketamine and ammonium sulphate being sold as MDMA.
The scheme developed in partnership with Cambridge Police and local public health authorities is based on the idea that such schemes can reduce harm and improve the welfare of those indulging in the taking of illegal drugs.
This may well be the case and there is some argument that people will take drugs anyway, so there may be benefits in telling them what they are taking
But is this a step too far? When these partygoers left the garden party, were they impaired? I imagine many would have been. How many of these people then drove motor vehicles to return home? If someone had been hurt on the roads by these people in car accidents, would the victims have been allowed to sue the police for allowing people to drive under the influence of drugs?
There are many more wide reaching issues around allowing people to take part in illegal behaviour. Does there need to be a change in the law if this is to become the norm?
There are many calls now for the decriminalisation of drugs and for more enlightened drug policies. This would mean that instead of prosecuting drug users they could be referred for treatment programmes.
The Home Office says, “no drug-taking can be assumed to be safe and our approach remains clear”. “Drugs are illegal where there is scientific and medical evidence that they are harmful to health and society.
“We must prevent drug use in our communities and help dependent individuals to recover, while ensuring our drugs laws are enforced.”
The local Police Force in the case and the Home Office seem to have differing opinions on enforcement.