Shambhala Music Festival in British Columbia is one of the few Canadian live events that offer free, no-hassle drug testing. Councillor Joe Cressy wants to see that happen in Toronto following six suspected overdoses(one fatal) in the city’s club community. CBC reports that Toronto’s board of health approved a measure as part of its drug strategy in March that could see amnesty offered to those who want to test drugs before ingesting them at large scale nightlife events. The discussion couldn’t be more opportune than while music festival season is on the upswing.
Joe Cressy says that harm-reduction and prevention strategies are as critical, if not more so, than enforcement — especially when it comes to reducing the number of fatal overdoses. “People use drugs,” he said. “So telling people not to use drugs doesn’t work; in fact, it leads to more deaths unnecessarily. But if people know what’s in those drugs we can help to prevent the unnecessary loss of life.” Cressy wants to bring Shambhala Music Festival’s proven and successful track record of offering drug testing to large scale dance music shows within the city limits.
Toronto Police Services issued an alert in the early hours of Saturday morning warning users of a “bad batch” of MDMA. A 24-year-old woman died of a suspected overdose after she collapsed at Uniun Nightclub. CBC states that another woman at the same club was also taken to hospital in serious condition, while three others at 11 Polson Pier are believed to have suffered overdoses as well. It was a series of instances that shook Toronto’s club-going community to its core.
The city has been pushing for Health Canada’s approval for this and for supervised injection sites for some time now. Toronto encountered a 73 % increase in overdoses over the last decade + change, with many of those being linked to substantial opioids like fentanyl. “A criminal justice approach is a failed approach for drug policy,” Cressy said. “A public health approach is a better way to go.”
Detractors say that publicly offered testing only condones drug use. “It’s not like we’re going to shopping malls and encouraging drug use,” Nick Boyce, Director of the Ontario HIV and Substance Use Training Program, said. “This is for people who are already using it. It’s a tool that can help people be safe.”
Feature image via The Globe and Mail