- Sex & Drugs
- 06 Sep 17
Festival organiser, Melvin Benn, has spoken to Hot Press about the possibility of drug testing at the event.
The Ana Liffey Drug Project enjoyed what they describe as a “highly productive and useful weekend” at the Electric Picnic where they were providing harm reduction services for the first time in the Jimi Hendrix campsite.
“We are very grateful to Festival Republic for inviting Ana Liffey to this year’s Electric Picnic,” enthuses Ana Liffey CEO, Tony Duffin. “Festival Republic are to be applauded for recognising that drug use at festivals requires non-judgemental, evidenced informed health responses. Hopefully more festival promoters will follow their lead.”
Partnering with the Irish Red Cross in the campsite’s Welfare Tent, they engaged with 78 people over the course of the weekend. Of these, 28% were female, 72% male and all in their teens and early twenties.
The busiest period was Friday from 7pm-10pm. People were mostly seeking MDMA and ecstasy information such as how to handle friends who’ve consumed too much and what they can do next time to reduce negative effects.
Many asked about drug checking and why it wasn’t available.
One guy in with the medics said he’d taken a gram of MDMA, but his low vitals and slow heart rate indicated it was something else.
Five other young males approached staff in the vicinity of the tent, asking about ketamine.
Whilst in favour of drug testing at festivals, the man in charge of Electric Picnic, Melvin Benn, cautions that bringing it about won’t be easy.
“Even in the UK, it’s proving incredibly problematic to bring the drug-testing in,” he tells Hot Press. “As daft as it sounds, if a kid gives a tester a pill to test – unless the person who tests the pill has got permission from the Home Office – they’re in possession of an illegal drug. And it’s like, until you get over that hump… and in the UK, the Home Office can only do it. Then here in Ireland, only the government can give those testers a license to do it, and until I can get over that hump, I don’t want testers actually to be under threat of holding illegal drugs and potentially being put under arrest. I don’t think the police or the Gardai would charge them, but technically they’re in possession of illegal drugs.”
Asked whether there have been efforts to get the government to do more, the Festival Republic lynchpin says: “Oh yeah, certainly in the UK. I haven’t started that here in Ireland yet, but in the UK, it’s become a discussion. Although everybody knows a ‘discussion’ in government is not a short thing, you know, it could last a long time.”
Responding to Melvin Benn, Ana Liffey CEO, Tony Duffin, resumes: “We hope to see drug checking at festivals in Ireland in the summer of 2018 and look forward to engaging with all stakeholders to try to make this a reality.
“It is safer not to use illicit or unknown drugs, but people do take risks and it is better that people make informed decisions and receive the best support and advice they can possibly get. We want everyone to enjoy their festival experience and get home safely.”