'STUDENTS DO CHOOSE TO CONSUME THEM'
University student associations across the South Island are endorsing drug testing too. It will be available at major Otago University and Lincoln University events this year, while Canterbury plans to introduce it in 2020.
University of Canterbury Students' Association (UCSA) President Sam Brosnahan believes illicit drug taking has become normalised at the university.
"We know drugs are illegal and we don't condone the taking of drugs, but we do recognise a lot of students do choose to consume them," he says.
The UCSA is aiming to introduce drug testing for Orientation Week in 2020, at the end of February. Brosnahan says the aim thereafter is to have testing at "major festival events", such as the end-of-year 'Tea Party'.
"From our point of view, rather than taking like a legalistic approach, we want to take a health-based approach."
Brosnahan adds that students have demanded drug testing.
An anonymous online survey conducted in August by Canterbury's student magazine, Canta, shows 55.4 percent of 316 respondents feel the UCSA isn't doing enough to help those using illegal drugs.
One respondent writes: "Need drug testing at O Week events; people are gonna do it, might as well make it safe."
Of the 289 respondents, who answered a question about what drugs they had consumed, 67.5 percent said they'd taken MDMA.
Fifth-year chemical engineering student Nick Kennedy ran for the 2020 UCSA presidency earlier this year on the policy of introducing Know Your Stuff's drug testing services in 2020.
"My idea was, if we can stop one person going into hospital by doing this, that’s 100 percent worth it," he says.
"This is about our students' well-being and our students' safety. Trying to take the moral high ground over that, that’s probably just naive and dangerous really," he adds.
Stephen Pitts, a third-year mechatronics student, started a drug harm reduction club in Canterbury at the start of 2019 after seeing a friend getting drugs tested at a festival.
'COME HOME SAFELY'
Legalising drug testing in New Zealand almost derailed when NZ First refused to back it without more information.
But, Young NZ First's successful motion at a recent national party conference means NZ First MPs will re-evaluate whether they'll support the implementation of drug testing at music festivals.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Police Minister Stuart Nash and the Green Party's Chlöe Swarbrick are all pledging support to change the Misuse of Drug Act, which will stop drug checking working in a legal grey area.
Swarbrick, Green's spokesperson for drug law reform, says she's campaigning for drug checking after "looking overseas and hearing the headlines" about people who lost their lives to drug use.
She tries to think about the issue from the view of a parent, who might give their child the best advice and wisdom, "but, if they do do something silly, you want them to come home safely."