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Drug testing scheme awaiting final approval

The drug testing scheme set to launch at UK festivals this year, led by Reading and Leeds Festival organiser Melvin Benn, is currently waiting on the Home Office to issue a special licence before the plans can go ahead.

The test runs for the scheme took place last year at Secret Garden Party and Kendal Calling. Benn is currently waiting for the government’s final approval, and is hoping to have a law in place in time for Reading and Leeds the last weekend in August.

Last year, 17-year-old Lewis Haunch died after taking drugs at Leeds Festival, sparking the topic of drug restrictions at events.

Benn, who also organises Wireless, V Festival and Latitude for Festival Republic, told BBC’s Newsbeat that the process is complicated. “The drug testing is complicated because of the law [but] it’s not complicated because of a desire to do it.”

“The people that are doing the drugs testing have to have a licence from the Home Office to be in possession of controlled drugs, otherwise they are in possession of illegal drugs.

“We haven’t got that permission yet. When we get that permission, we can announce that it’ll happen at Reading and Leeds, but until I get that permission I can’t say it will.”

The scheme will be able to offer festivalgoers the chance to take their drugs for testing, run by organisation, The Loop, that usually conducts forensic testing of drugs seized by police. The drugs would then be destroyed.

In 2016, an estimated 200 people tested their illegal drugs at Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire.

Benn told the BBC that he was expected the licence to come through with no problems. “It was going to happen and then I got an email from the Home Office that said they hadn’t got that licence, they can’t do it. So now I’m waiting on the Home Office to give me the special licence.

“I think it will happen. There’s a will for it to happen from West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council. Clearly we can’t do it until we abide by the law,” said Benn.