Testing drugs for fentanyl should be allowed at Quebec music festivals, group says

A Quebec organization wants to introduce a drug analysis service at music festivals around the province in order to minimize the risk of fentanyl overdoses and deaths. A spokesperson for event promoter Evenko says they're not ruling the idea out.

GRIP Montreal says on-site analysis service would help prevent overdoses, deaths

GRIP Montreal says drug analysis services are common at music festivals in Europe and Australia. (Frank Opolko/CBC)

A Quebec organization says drug analysis services should be introduced at music festivals around the province in order to minimize the risk of fentanyl overdoses and deaths.

The non-profit group, known as GRIP Montreal, says the move is necessary given the increasing presence of fentanyl in the province.

Fentanyl is 40 times stronger than heroin and more than 900 people died from fentanyl overdoses in British Columbia in 2016.

GRIP Montreal says drug testing is common at festivals in Europe and Australia, but remains controversial in Quebec.

Given the potential presence of fentanyl in some recreational drugs, GRIP Montreal founder, Jean-Sébastien Fallu, said allowing testing may be a matter of life and death for some concert goers.

"With the fentanyl crisis we're having right now, there is a great risk to recreational drug users and we might have many overdoses and even deaths if the situation is not handled," he said.

GRIP already provides psychosocial services at festivals around the province, including information programs on drug use.

Evenko keeping an open mind

Philip Vanden Brande, spokeperson for the festival producer Evenko, said the company is in talks with GRIP Montreal to determine "if and how" such a service can be integrated into their events, which include Osheaga and Heavy Montreal.

"We're in conversations with them to see how we can improve what we currently have on-site and the next steps that should be taken for the security of our festival goers and staff," he said.

At the moment, Vanden Brande said Evenko's security team is more oriented toward ensuring illicit drugs are seized "before they even get on-site."

"But if [drug testing] is a service that we think can be provided to our festival goers and if it's worth it to have that this year, then it's something we'll definitely look into," he said.