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.

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.”

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The Home Office Statement

Licensed drug testing continues at music festivals this summer

Confiscated and surrendered drugs will be tested to identify toxic substances in circulation and help prevent drug-related overdoses.

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Confiscated and surrendered drugs will be tested at music festivals this summer to identify toxic substances in circulation and help prevent drug-related overdoses.

A continuation of long-standing government policy, licences have been issued under strict conditions to drug testing organisations to operate at some of the leading festivals in the UK.

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 message to festival goers is there is no safe way to take illegal drugs.

This will also provide an important source of data for the government’s early warning system in tracking the prevalence of emerging threats, such as synthetic opioids, so that police and health support services can take swift action to contain the problem should any be identified.

Back-of-house drug testing does not see drug samples returned to an individual or provide them with tailored information on the content of their sample, as we are clear there are no safe ways to take illegal drugs.

More licences are expected to be issued in the coming weeks.

As in previous years, organisations wishing to deliver back-of-house drug testing must apply for a Home Office licence to operate responsibly, in line with government policy to ensure that they do not condone drug use which is illegal.

There has been no change in the government’s position on drug testing at festivals. It has long been a requirement for anyone handling controlled drugs, including drug testing services, to acquire a licence.

The Home Office continues to keep an open dialogue with any potential applicants who wish to apply for a licence, including organisations that deliver drug testing services, to ensure the strict requirements attached to back-of-house drug testing are fully understood.

Information about controlled drugs licences for companies that possess, manufacture, produce or supply controlled drugs in England, Wales or Scotland can be found in the controlled drugs: domestic licences guidance.

Published 24 May 2024

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