Wellington , November 23
New Zealand Health Minister Andrew Little said drug-checking services will continue to operate legally at festivals, pop-up clinics, university orientation, and other places this summer and beyond thanks to a law passed on Tuesday.
The services have been legal since last summer under temporary legislation that expires next month.
The Drug and Substance Checking Legislation Bill (No. 2), which passed its third reading and will come into effect on Dec. 7, means services can now continue and be expanded as required, Little said in a statement.
“This legislation is about keeping people safe,” he said, adding that the current drug-checking services have detected and intercepted potentially deadly substances circulating in the community.
Evidence shows that when people are told substances are not what they think they are, they’ll often choose not to take them, potentially saving lives, Little said.
Research by the Wellington-based Victoria University on behalf of the Ministry of Health showed that 68 percent of festival-goers who used drug-checking services said they had changed their behavior once they saw the results, said the minister.
The government has also approved three new organizations to perform drug-checking services.
The New Zealand Drug Foundation, the NZ Needle Exchange Program, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) will work alongside existing provider KnowYourStuffNZ.
The government is also contributing 800,000 NZ dollars (554,344 U.S. dollars) towards the cost of the service, Little said.