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New Zealand becomes second country to introduce drug testing laws

New Zealand’s new law allows all drug users to test for purity without punishment as part of a renewed harm-minimisation effort.

The new law, which was passed through the New Zealand government last Friday, will allow illegal substances and recreational drugs to be tested without punishment to ensure their authenticity. The goal in passing this law is not only to reduce health risks, and possibly change users behaviour, but also to weed out dangerous chemicals that an endemic drug problem.

Despite the new law, it is still illegal to possess or sell illegal substances in the country. The law will be an experiment in the system for a year, and guarantees that participants will not be jailed, or have any contact with the police. 

New Zealand Drugs
Image: The New York Times

The introduction of the new law comes after a pilot program last year, allowing the government to pass the Drug Checking Act as well as the Ministry of Health appointing a drug verification service called ‘KnowYourStuffNZ’. The service checked samples a collection of substances to give users a clearer idea of the chemical makeup of substances – particularly at music festivals.

Daily Mail reported that in 2016, testing organisations tested 330 samples at nine events. That number jumped in 2019 to a whopping 1,368 samples at 22 events. The publication reported that contamination in the substances sampled was common, more than half of the samples that were tested were not what the owners of the drug had expected.

New Zealand follows the Netherlands as the second country to formally legalise drug checks. The European nation started a similar program in 1999, pioneering a practice that is beginning to spread around the world. Unfortunately, Australia has remained largely untouched, as New Zealand drug experts criticised Australia’s response to drug-related deaths at festivals. NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian notoriously opposes drug testing at festivals – a decision that New Zealand drug officials are calling out Australia for.