Survey discloses high drug use at the Gathering

The Dominion, 4 January 2001

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A RANDOM survey has shown that illegal substances are extremely common at the Gathering dance party in Golden Bay. Ninety-three out of 100 people surveyed by the Nelson Mail admitted taking some type of illegal drug at the 72-hour rave.

At least two people were also openly selling cannabis at the party, including one man wearing a sequined sombrero hat with a sign saying "Cannabis 4 U". Only three people surveyed got their drugs at the Gathering. The rest said they bought them before arriving at the party.

Organiser Murray Kingi said he did not condone illegal drug use and openly discouraged it. He was surprised by the survey and said it misrepresented the 13,000 people at the party, which ended yesterday.

Among partygoers, however, a different picture was painted. It appeared that most revellers would rather experience the festival on drugs. The most popular drug among those questioned was Ecstasy, which 46 people admitted taking.

Ecstasy apparently makes people feel happier, less inhibited and more confident. It is often called the love drug, because people are more affectionate on it. However, it is also considered dangerous and has led to deaths in New Zealand and overseas.

Also popular at the Gathering was lsd or acid, a hallucinogen that increases sensory perception. Other drugs used were cannabis, speed, magic mushrooms and cactus extracts.

There were rumours that drugs were easy to buy at the event. Cannabis was common and readily available, but harder drugs appeared difficult to get.

The man in the sombrero said he had sold 10 $40 bags of the locally grown product in five minutes on New Year's Eve and $1600 worth in one day later. "I'm just providing a service, a good public service. I get thanked for it all the time," he said while patrolling the dance zones.

Mr Kingi said that anyone the event's 150 security officers caught selling or using drugs would be harshly dealt with. As far as he knew, no one had been caught. He said it was sad that so many people needed illegal drugs to enjoy the Gathering.

"There are a lot of people who come to the Gathering and don't take drugs and still have a good time."

Mr Kingi said medical and counselling staff were on hand to care for anyone who had a bad drug trip, as apparently happened to at least three people. Police were not a permanent presence at the event, though they did attend briefly on New Year's Eve, and were called in once to help evict a troublesome reveller.

The Gathering was an almost trouble-free event, Mr Kingi said. He was still considering moving the event to the North Island. -- NZPA

The Dominion, 4 January 2001

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