Lead criminal Solicitor Nicholas Stewart warns that anyone carrying drugs into a NSW. festival can be deemed a drug dealer. Even a text message discussing drugs can be enough to end up in hot water. Mr Steward said “In NSW for example, 0.75g of MDMA is trafficable and I would put that at 3 or 4 pills”. “What a lot of people don’t realise is that engaging in a text conversation with friends about drugs for the weekend…these text message could be evidence of supply”.
When it comes to larger amounts of drugs, Judges are not afraid to throw the book at syndicates looking to move bundles of MDMA at music festivals.
After trying to smuggle 270 MDMA capsules into the 2016 Knockout Circuz festival at Sydney Olympic Park, Sant Salas, Matthew Sultana and Trent Levi Keogh were each sentenced to more than two years jail. Keogh used Instagram to recruit two women, these women then used containers found inside Kinder Surprise chocolates to internally conceal drugs and get past sniffer dogs.
Last weekend in Sydney, Festival X was part of a NSW Government trial of a ‘criminal infringement notice’ for drug incidents. This resulted in 13 people being issued with on-the-spot fines for drug infringement, plus four people being charged with supplying drugs. This trial of the criminal infringement notice is supported by police as a means for dealing with recreational users at festivals. The notice can carry a penalty of up to $400 and gives police discretionary power to help avoid court attendances. Despite not being considered one of the NSW Government’s “high-risk” festivals that carry tighter licensing restrictions, 13 people were rushed to hospital from Festival X and 4 were considered ‘code red’.
Another reminder of the dangers occurred when a 24-year-old Victorian died of a suspected drug overdose at Strawberry Fields music festival just north of the Victorian border.
Tributes are flowing in for Glenn Mcrae who was thought of as a “good guy” with a “cheeky smile”.
Mcrae lived in the regional city of Shepparton and was attending the festival which attracts thousands of partygoers to the banks of the Murray each year.
A statement from the festival organisers said the team worked year-round to ensure the 9,500 festival attendees were hosted in the safest possible environment.
“We are completely devastated by this news,” the statement said. “We would like to send our sincere condolences to his family and friends during this distressing and terribly sad time.”
However, organisers urged festival goers to take responsibility for their actions.
“We have implemented every single harm minimisation strategy that is legally available to us … however, we cannot control the choices of individual patrons,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Premier Berejiklian has faced mounting pressure to introduce pill testing at music festivals after a coroner’s report urged the state government to allow the measure. On Monday Ms Berejiklian repeated her position that pill testing would “unintentionally [give] young people the green light that it’s OK to take the drug so long as you test them”.
“What might be OK for one person taking a tablet could be lethal for another person. Let’s not pretend that pill testing would have saved these lives,” she told reporters in Sydney.
“I appreciate the debate that’s going on in the community about [strip-searching powers],” said Ms Berejiklian, who told reporters she had raised the issue with NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
She said amnesty bins outside festivals, which allow people to dispose of drugs without facing penalties, were “a really good idea”. “Government has been discussing options like that,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a whole suite of opportunities to support young people making the right decisions, and it’s been an ongoing process”.