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The NSW Premier wants to ban festivals if people don’t stop overdosing

The NSW Premier Mike Baird said yesterday that the state government will put in place new rules that could see major music festivals banned because of drug use, The Daily Telegraph reported, after a young woman overdosed at Sydney’s Field Day on 1 January. The woman later recovered in hospital.

Premier Baird said in light of that “distressing and avoidable incident,” he will be asking government ministers to review how permits are granted for music festivals, to hold organisers accountable for overdoses at their events, make it harder for festivals to get permission to go ahead, and deny permits to festivals that “have not done the right thing in the past.” Last year, three young people died from suspected drug overdoses at music festivals in NSW.

The new requirements for festival organisers will include more stringent searches at festival entry points. “Individuals need to take responsibility for their actions, but so do the organisers of these festivals,” Premier Baird said. “Enough is enough. This simply has to stop.”

The shifting of responsibility from punters onto event organisers echoes the notorious RAVE Act (Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, later known as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act) passed into law in the United States in 2003.

The act expanded the existing “crackhouse law” to make event organisers, and even the owners of property where events were held, criminally responsible for people using drugs at their events. The act also controversially listed things like chill-out rooms, free water and glow sticks as “drug paraphernalia.”

The RAVE Act has been heavily criticised for increasing the number of overdoses at events, by discouraging promoters from offering chill spaces and harm reduction information, for fear of being charged with “maintaining a drug involved premises”.