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Drugs, Sniffer Dogs, Your Rights and Safety: The Facts

Summer is on its way, which means festivals, outdoor dancing, drinking, heat and, for some punters, illicit substances.

Drug use and music festivals may have been linked since the first Neolithic human ate a mysterious plant and beat out a rhythm on a log, but using mind altering chemicals still comes with its own checklist of dangers, both to your health and from the law.

At inthemix we take harm reduction seriously and want to provide festival-goers with clear, factual information to help keep you safe. To that end, we spoke with a group of experts involved in festivals, harm reduction and law enforcement to get their advice on how to stay safe, and what to keep in mind, this festival season.


Festivals, Drugs and the Law

Australia has nine jurisdictions (including the Commonwealth), with laws differing slightly from state to state, so the below are guidelines only.

If you are found in possession of drugs, “the action [charge] depends on the type of drug, the amount seized and a number of other circumstances,” Det. Supt. Bingham, a Commander in the NSW Drug Squad, explains.

“It could range from a cannabis caution or a future court attendance notice through to being arrested and taken to a police station and refused bail to face court at the first available sitting. If you supply a pill to your mate, you could be charged with supply.”

You can also be charged for supply of a drug if you possess what is deemed as a ‘traffickable quantity’. In New South Wales, for example, three grams of speed, 300 grams of cannabis, or 15 ecstasy pills or LSD tabs are deemed traffickable. In Victoria, three grams of speed, cocaine or ecstacy are traffickable quantities. (For more on the outcomes of being charged with possession, see page three.)

Using ‘Emerging Psychoactive Substances’ such as synthetic cathinone stimulants like mephedrone, MDPV and their laundry list of related analogues, or the highly dangerous NBOMe group of psychedelics, may not be a protection from the law either. “New legislation has now criminalised a range of synthetic drugs, meaning if you’re caught with these, the prohibited drug laws will apply and you will be charged,” says Det. Supt. Bingham.

Laws around Emerging Psychoactive Substances vary from state to state but Queensland, NSW and South Australia have taken steps towards ‘blanket bans’ on “anything that has a psychoactive effect other than alcohol or tobacco” (more here).

Emerging Psychoactive Substances also often have lower lethal doses than well-documented substances like MDMA, along with no readily available information on the safe dose range and next to no history of human use.

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