Music Festival Drug Testing

September 11, 2016

After three young men died in a car crash heading home from a Blue Mountains festival last year, police opposed this year's festival going ahead. The driver, who survived, was charged with driving under the influence.

 

Psyfari festival organisers responded by putting on extra doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as free drug and alcohol testing for drivers leaving. They had the backing of the local council as well as the landowners, who stood to be personally liable if anyone got hurt.

 

And so, last weekend, 5000 people took to the narrow road to a remote bush block, way out of mobile reception and a long drive from the hospital. On the way they passed through a roadblock manned by a dozen officers - way more than last year.

 

Over the course of the weekend police would conduct more than 2500 random breath tests and 250 random drug tests. About 10 per cent - or 25 people - would test positive for drug-driving.

 

Psyfari is a bush doof that bills itself as a return to a time when "life was simple and life was wild". More than a few punters were smuggling in drugs like MDMA and weed.

 

The officer in charge described it as a "real perfect storm for a really unsafe outcome."

 

Meanwhile, the rest of the state, including organisers of other festivals, looked on for clues to how festivals would be policed this coming summer. Last festival season saw five drug-related deaths and a deepening rift over NSW drug reform.

 

There had been renewed calls for allowing punters to have drugs tested inside festivals, to avoid overdoses, and no sign these calls would be heeded.

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