Home Office Decision on Drug Testing Might Threaten Festivalgoers’ Safety This Summer

June 19, 2023
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As summer festivals gear up, the Home Office has made a U-turn on drug testing development at UK festivals. From now on, drug-checking facilities must apply for a special licence, which could take three months to be approved. 

Festival organisers must now cut through a bureaucratic maze to secure a special licence for establishing drug testing facilities. 

Application for the new licence requirement to conduct “back-of-house” drug checks could take months to process and drain over £3,000 from the festivals’ budgets. This puts many of this year’s open-air festivals in a tight spot, as it is too late to apply. 

The abrupt policy change impacted the recent Parklife Festival, which welcomed 70,000 electronic music fans to Heaton Park. In a first for the festival’s nine-year drug-checking history, Parklife couldn’t set up its regular facility in collaboration with testing service The Loop.  

Last year alone, The Loop actively identified eight high-strength MDMA pills in circulation at Parklife.

Although research suggests that the practice lowers the risk of overdoses by keeping festival-goers informed on potentially dangerous substances, the Home Office told The Loop to apply for a separate license instead of relying on its agreement with law enforcement. 

A Home Office spokesperson told The Guardian that festivals, in collaboration with local partners, hold responsibility for drug testing decisions

Speaking to The Guardian, Melvin Benn, Festival Republic’s Managing Director, highlighted the risks to festival-goers’ wellbeing.

“If festival organisers fear their safeguarding measures will be pulled at the 11th hour, then how can we guarantee the wellbeing of our guests?”

The service offered by The Loop and similar organisations involves analysing drugs confiscated or submitted via the surrender bin. When tests reveal a serious health threat, festival-goers receive a push notification alert warning them about the dangerous substance.

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