Police Have Already Seized A Kilogram of Drugs at Splendour

Splendour In The Grass is in full swing for another year – a reunited Outkast performed to a rapt crowd last night, and the bulk of the Pedestrian.TV team are likely waking up, bleary-eyed in their tents as we speak – but amidst the revelry, there is concern by some concert-goers about the use of drug sniffing dogs at the festival. 
Since the festival site outside Byron Bay opened on Wednesday, police have been targeting illicit drugs, and screening concert-goers at the gates. As of late yesterday, ABC News report that 113 people have been caught with drugs, and a little over a kilogram of “cannabis, pills and powders” has been seized, more than twice the amount seized at the same time last year.
Targeting drugs at Splendour is nothing new. During the 2013 festival, a total of 353 person searches and 50 vehicle searches were conducted. 282 people were found in possession of illegal drugs, including cannabis and MDMA, and a 21-year-old man was arrested and charged after his van was found to contain 102 tabs of ecstasy and 0.5g of MDMA powder. 
NSW Police superintendent Stuart Wilkins told media that more drugs are seized at the festival and more people are detained for possession than “anywhere else in the state.” The official line is that screening at the gates results in “harm minimisation”, stopping concert-goers before they take drugs. 
Not everyone agrees that this is a good strategy, however. Several weeks ago, Art Vs Science member Dan McNamee made an impassioned plea for the presence of sniffer dogs to be abolished at the festival, arguing that punters would be less likely to suffer “panic-induced overdoses” by taking all their drugs in one go to avoid detection.
Studies exist to back up this assertion. Earlier this month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, in which 500 NSW festival-goers were surveyed during the recent summer concert season, and asked about their drug-taking behaviours.

Of those surveyed, 62% said that they would take drugs “either way”. When asked if the presence of sniffer dogs at the gates would change their behaviour, a significant number said that they would be likely to take more drugs outside the venue. The study likewise found a 40% increase in the use of drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy relative to cannabis.

The ABC interviewed several Splendour attendees who said that some patrons are “freaked out” by the presence of the dogs and may be inclined to “take four pills at once” rather than risk getting caught. At present, however, there have been no reports of serious incidents or fatalities at this year’s festival. 


Photo: Don Arnold via Getty Images