The Needle Exchange Services Trust, the national office for the New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme is pleased to announce it has been approved and Gazetted to provide drug checking services to people who use drugs via its network of dedicated outlets. We are also delighted that Parliament has voted to pass the Drug and Substance Checking Bill Legislation (No 2) into law. The legislation is expected to come into effect on the 7th of December 2021, it provides a new permanent legal framework for drug checking services at festivals, clinics and community-based services.
Drug checking is an effective, evidence-based harm reduction measure that saves live by allowing people to make more informed decisions by providing them with information and advice about the drugs they have. Survey's conducted by KnowYourStuffNZ, NZ's pioneering drug checking provider have shown that people often dispose of drugs when they find out their drugs aren't what they thought they had.
The passing of the legislation is a major victory for harm reduction and drug law reform advocates. On social media, NZNEP National Harm Reduction Lead, Jason George said "This is probably the biggest development in drug harm reduction in NZ since the law was changed to allow legal needle & syringe distribution in NZ!" It has been 34 years since needle & syringe distribution was legalised in New Zealand.
Speaking to reporter Derek Cheng from the NZ Herald, NZNEP National Operations Manager Philippa Jones said "We have this very well established, trusted channel to a group of people who are often stigmatised, vulnerable and who face discrimination. That is really our strength - a non-judgmental service to a broader range of clients who might not otherwise be getting harm reduction advice."
The NZNEP being approved as a drug checking service provider is a significant step towards making drug checking available to a much wider range of people who use drugs. The service will be valuable to people at risk of overdose, such as people who inject drugs as well as other vulnerable groups, including homeless people.
The NZNEP is in the process of designing a drug checking service for its outlets and hopes to start providing drug checking services in 2022 but this will be dependant on funding.