An Garda Síochána wants to make it clear that there are no exemptions, including those who tell gardaí they are going to the medical tent to surrender their drugs.
The limited trial is part of the Health Service Executive’s drug harm reduction campaign and will mark the first time illegal drugs are tested outside of authorised State facilities.
HSE testers will be able to test substances which are surrendered to determine potential harm and strength of the drugs over the weekend in Stradbally, Co Laois as festivalgoers return to Electric Picnic for the first time since 2019.
However, while it was previously implied that there would be amnesty bins present at the testing facilities, with anonymity granted and no gardaí present, it appears that this is not the case.
Detective Superintendent Sé McCormack of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau stressed that there will be no amnesty or exception from the law when it comes to possessing illegal drugs.
“The law hasn’t changed. There is no change in legislation to facilitate the possession of illegal or controlled drugs,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“Some agencies have been using the word ‘amnesty’. This is not an amnesty bin. There is no amnesty bin. They are surrender bins.”
He said that An Garda Síochána wants to make it clear that there are no exemptions, including those who tell gardaí they are going to the medical tent to surrender their drugs.
“There is no defence, ‘I’m on my way to the tent’. There is no part of the ground that says it's OK to hold illegal drugs.
“If you have illegal drugs in your possession and you're stopped and searched, and you're found in possession, then consideration has to be given to prosecution.
“I cannot be more clear — there is no amnesty area, there's no sacred ground where you can say, 'It's OK for me to possess the drugs.' These are illegal drugs.”
He said the drug testing trial is a “health-led” initiative that gardaí have been involved in from the get-go.
“That’s what the testing and the monitoring is about. We're working with our HSE partners to get the messages out on both fronts. And it's Government policy. It's coming from the national drug strategy. So we're happy to do it.”
“We've been consulted and engaging with our health partners and the criminal justice partners to get this over the line and to highlight that it is something that can be of use in preventing illness.”
Gardai continue to remind festival goers that possession of drugs for personal use is illegal and subject to prosecution.
The HSE has also stressed that it is safer not to use drugs but if a person chooses to use illegal substances, they should have the option to receive information and help in order to minimise harm.