Harm reduction has become somewhat of a hot button topic this year with a lot of discussions being calved off of each big festival. We’ve seen the poster child for harm reduction in action with our neighbors to the north at Shambhala, and we’ve seen USC make great strides with the Conscious Crew leading to a fatality-free Paradiso, Amsterdam actively warns tourists of dangerous drugs and reminds them the law protects them if they need. Unfortunately our friends in Australia have chosen to take a different approach with the message sent by the police in Victoria, Australia regarding Stereosonic Festival in Melbourne.
Here at Dance Music Northwest we aren’t promoting drug use, but we also understand that there are some who choose to make drugs a part of their experience, no matter how risky they may be. This is where we think it’s crucial to educate people on harm reduction and provide resources at events, to help people make a safer, more educated decision about what they’re about to put into their body. Unfortunately, the police in Victoria are taking a different tack by warning festival-goers that “illicit drugs, anti-social behaviour and excessive alcohol consumption will not be tolerated.”
This of course begs the question: what counts as anti-social behavior? What counts as excessive alcohol consumption? Rules like this do nothing to advance public safety as they don’t provide any clarification. The festival has warned that officers and Passive Alert Detection dogs will be present at festival gates and that “a drug conviction can impact your employment opportunities as well as your ability to travel to certain countries in the future”. What would we love to see in the future, instead of a heavy handed approach like this one, is an acknowledgement that no matter what is done drugs will still make it in to festivals and venues. It’s up to us to do all we can to promote safety in light of that.
So how do we promote safety in the meantime? Providing easy and free access to water and testing kits, and reminding about good samaritan laws in case someone gets in over their head will cut down on so many more health incidents than the heavy handed approach taken by many jurisdictions. Go out and purchase your own testing kit and learn how to use it correctly so that you and your friends can make an informed decision on what you’re taking. Use the buddy system to look out for each other. If you see someone who looks like they are in trouble stop and say hello and ask them their name and how they’re doing. And above all else, remember that the folks in aid are there with the number one priority: to help you should you need it, not to get you in trouble. We need to be the change that we wish to see, so take steps to keep you and your friends safe, and speak up whenever you can to encourage promoters and local governments to do the same.
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