The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


UK Home Office Moves To Restrict Drug Testing At Festivals
Christian Eede , June 16th, 2023 16:19

Drug testing charities must now undergo a three-month license application in order to carry out testing

The UK Government has performed a U-turn on support for drug testing at festivals.

Coming at the start of the UK's summer festival season, the change in Home Office policy meant that drug-testing charity The Loop was not given approval to carry out planned testing on confiscated substances at last weekend's Parklife festival in Manchester. Organisations like The Loop will now be required to undergo a three-month license application process in order to continue their work at festivals and other events.

With the change in policy coming right at the start of the summer festival season, the UK Government has been heavily criticised, particularly as it means that The Loop and other organisations will now not be able to do their work during a period when it is most needed. Beginning the license application process now will mean that they may not get full approval until the end of the summer.

Michael Kill, head of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), told Resident Advisor that the U-turn will have "considerable ramifications, and [has the] potential to put peoples lives at risk." Carly Heath, Bristol's Night Time Economy Advisor, also criticised the Government's timing, adding that the decision "has been made with not enough time for any festivals this summer to be able to get though the three-month licensing process."

Sacha Lord, director of The Warehouse Project and Parklife, and Greater Manchester's Night Time Economy Advisor, said: "Drug testing onsite has been an essential part of the work we do with the support of Greater Manchester police to keep festivalgoers safe. This move is a disappointing, senseless U-turn of government policy that puts people at risk."

A Home Office spokesperson has said the rules have been set in line with the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. "Anyone interested in undertaking lawful activities involving the possession, supply or production of controlled drugs, including those who wish to provide drug testing services, need to apply for a Home Office licence," the spokesperson said. "Festival organisers in consultation with local partners are responsible for decisions relating to drug testing at festivals. We will continue an open dialogue with prospective licensees throughout the festival season."

Drug testing at festivals in recent summers has been an essential practice to help raise awareness about potentially harmful substances that are in circulation. Last summer, The Loop issued a warning about MDMA pills that were "up to 1.5 times the average strength" after carrying out testing at Parklife.