Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jul 2016
Source: Cambridge Evening News (UK)
Copyright: 2016 Cambridge Newspapers Ltd
Author: Charles White


Music festival Secret Garden Party allowed people carrying illegal 
narcotics to test the quality and strength of the drugs over the weekend.

The pioneering scheme had the support of local police, and was run by 
the drugs charity The Loop. Thought to be the first of its kind in 
the UK, the project appears to have been a success.

Festival-goers were able to have their stash tested without handing 
over the rest. It was reported that over 200 people had their drugs 
tested. Finding over 80 suspect substances, over a quarter was 
disposed of after testing. The Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, who 
assisted in the scheme, claimed that it was an attempt to "undo the 
damage the War on Drugs had done."

Steve Rolles, from the foundation, told the News that the project was 
building on past efforts: "We can now tailor information and so users 
can make better choices. This is an evolution, and the fact it was 
done in partnership with the police lent credibility."

Mr Rolles now wants this kind of testing to be part of licencing 
agreements for music festivals. "If you want to claim this is being 
weak on crime - fine. But we think it's actually tough on safety.

"You have to deal with reality, we failed to get rid of drugs under 
an enforcement approach, so we're public health pragmatists."

The tests revealed high-strength ecstasy as well as anti-malaria 
tablets passed off as ketamine, a horse tranquilliser. The first pill 
tested was in fact a complete dud - with the user thinking it was ecstasy.

Cambridge-based Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) praised the 
scheme. Comprising the police, public health, the local authority, 
the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and treatment 
providers, DAAT was involved in the planning for the music festival.

While The Loop's scheme was run independently of DAAT, they told the 
News: "DAAT is committed to working in partnership to ensure that 
there is a coordinated harm reduction response and that the safety of 
individuals using drugs/alcohol in the county is prioritised.

"On this occasion the DAAT Partnership were not provided with the 
necessary operational detail to be able to endorse 'The Loop' service 
although we absolutely support the principle of harm reduction based 
approaches. "We are keen to learn about this innovation."

The project was based on the belief that drugs that are tested will 
reduce chances of users overdosing.

The News has contacted the organisers and the police for comment.
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