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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Josh Salisbury

Drug testing to go ahead at festivals this summer after Home Office licence confusion

Drug testing will restart at festivals across the UK this summer in a move hailed by campaigners.

Last year onsite drug testing providers such as The Loop said they were told by the Home Office they had to apply for a Controlled Drugs Licence, which costs more than £3,000 and takes three months to process.

That was despite drug testing at festivals taking place since 2016 under the permission of local authorities and police, with some organisers raising alarms it could see the practice end.

The Home Office has now said it will allow licences for drug tests at festivals this summer - but insists it has not changed policy.

Campaigners had last year accused the Government of a confused policy whereby “substances would have to be transported away from the festival” making on-site rapid testing unfeasible.

The testing inspects samples of confiscated or surrendered drugs, allowing on-site laboratories to send out public alerts to festival-goers in real time if extremely potent drugs are detected.

Advocates say this both protects the public and allows police to know when more dangerous drugs are circulating.

Welcoming the news, Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester and long-time campaigner for drug testing, said: “Drug testing at festivals is undeniably critical, and I am extremely pleased that the Home Office has approved their ongoing use. 

“There is no safe way to take drugs, and so testing quite literally saves lives, and can help uncover new and potentially lethal drugs which may be new to the market.

“I would like to thank the cross-party MPs who have supported this move, and those behind the scenes at the Home Office who have worked so hard to ensure we have these licences in place ahead of this year's festival season.”

The decision comes just before several festivals, including Mighty Hoopla Festival in London’s Brockwell Park on June 1, Isle of Wight Festival from June 20 and Glastonbury from June 26.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “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.”

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