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Home Office confirms additional licensing for on-site drug testing at UK music festivals

The news follows the controversial 2023 decision requiring drug testing organisations to apply for licenses

  • 1 June 2024
Home Office confirms additional licensing for on-site drug testing at UK music festivals

The Home Office has confirmed that additional licenses will be granted to allow back-of-house drug testing at UK music festivals this year.

In a statement published last week (May 24), the Home Office said that it will "continue" licensed testing this summer as a "continuation of long-standing government policy," on harm reduction.

The news follows the controversial decision by the Home Office last year requiring drug testing organisations to apply for the new license, instead of relying on agreements with local police forces.

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The lengthy process and waiting times for licenses to be approved meant that harm reduction charities such as The Loop were unable to operate at some festivals last year, including Manchester's Parklife.

The lack of testing resulted in both the NTIA and Parklife founder Sacha Lord threatening the government with legal action, warning that the "void in drug testing" during the 2023 festival could put "lives at risk."

The Loop announced the news on Twitter saying, “We are resuming our festival drug testing services again this summer, having obtained the first Home Office licence ever issued for onsite festival testing! This is a huge endorsement for The Loop’s work.”

Before being revoked last year, drug testing had been practised at certain UK festivals for around 10 years, a process which saw confiscated or surrendered drugs tested in on-site laboratories, allowing for alerts to be sent out if any were found to contain toxic or harmful substances or dangerous levels of potency.

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Supporters of the process say that the warnings issued as a direct result of the testing save lives, benefitting the police and emergency services by providing them with information to help emergency services treat anyone who has fallen ill, as well as allowing the tracking of emergent threats such as synthetic opioids.

The Home Office shared a series of "strict conditions" to drug testing organisations as part of its announcement, including that "confiscated or surrendered drugs will be tested on-site and public alerts will be cascaded to festival goers if extremely potent drugs are detected to protect the public as much as possible and help prevent drug-related harm."

The statement confirms that "more licenses will be issued in the coming weeks."

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The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has welcomed the news, with CEO Michael Kill detailing that "the reinstatement of back-of-house drug testing facilities by the Home Office is a significant step in the harm reduction strategy for festivals across the UK."

"These facilities play a vital role in safeguarding attendees and proactively informing them of potential harms," he adds.

The move has also been described by Manchester’s Night Time Economic Advisor Sacha Lord as “life-saving”, having previously said that the Home Office would have "blood on their hands" following the requirement for licenses being announced in 2023.

Jamaal Johnson is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Instagram

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