A large police operation at a Sydney music festival on Saturday has captured what could possibly be the biggest haul of drugs found on a single person at a music festival in Australia.
Mary Naioko, 20, was charged after police allegedly searched her and found an incredible 879 MDMA capsules on her body at Knockout Circus held at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion.
The haul dwarfs the boast by a Perth woman on social media a week ago how she allegedly snuck “100 pingas” into Stereosonic’s Perth event.
Remarkably, Ms Naioko wasn’t the only one at the event found with a ridiculous number of capsules, including a 21-year-old man who had 200 MDMA capsules seized, and another man, aged 19, who was found with 103 capsules.
According to SMH, Ms Naioko was refused bail when she appeared on Sunday at Parramatta Local Court, while both men were charged with supply of an indictable quantity of drugs and granted conditional bail.
In total, police charged 35 people with drug offences.
The event, attended by about 5000 people, was organised by Harder Styles United, who billed the rave to be one of “the most spectacular and intense indoor rave arena’s HSU has ever created”.
Last week organisers used their Facebook page to warn patrons of the drug operation and remind partygoers to “take care of one another”.
The huge haul is just the latest in what has been a remarkable and tragic twelve months for music festivals across Australia.
Two attendees recently tragically lost their lives at Australia’s biggest music festival, Stereosonic, after succumbing to suspected drug overdoses.
Stefan Woodward died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital last weekend, while 25-year-old Sylvia Choi died at Stereosonic festival in Sydney just a week earlier.
And just days after reports surfaced that three WA Police officers who attended Stereosonic in Perth tested positive for drugs the next day, a North Queensland police constable resigned after allegedly being caught with drugs at the popular EDM festival.
Meanwhile, just three months ago, Tone Deaf reported on the death of 26-year-old Nigel Pauljevic, who was found unconscious during the Defqon.1 music festival. This was followed one month later by the death of 23-year-old Anneke Vo at the Dragon Dreaming Festival.
Mr Woodward’s death marks the fourth death at an electronic music event in as many months. While many reacted with outrage when NSW Police claimed there was an undeniable link between the EDM scene and illicit drug use, do we see such a high number of deaths and drug arrests at other festivals?
In addition to the death of Mr Pauljevic at this year’s Defqon.1, in 2013 James Munro died of an overdose after swallowing “three pills” at the popular hard-style dance event, while Nathaniel Guymer died at last year’s Falls Festival after allegedly ingesting one tablet.
All up, that’s six deaths and countless overdoses in recent memory.
Following Ms Choi’s death, many critics of Australia’s current approach to illicit drug use came out to call for the introduction of pill-testing at music festivals and anywhere else large groups of young people are consuming drugs.
ER doctor and drug harm minimisation advocate Dr David Caldicott said the fact that deaths keep occurring despite the presence of police operations at music festivals means “we’re doing something wrong”.
The “we” Dr Caldicott was referring to was the Australian police forces and the government, who’ve taken an infamously hard-line approach to drug use, scoffing at the use of pill-testing programs that have been proven to work elsewhere.
Of course, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The drug that causes the most deaths in Australia is alcohol and according to a 2013 study, of all illegal substances, heroin and other opioids were involved with the largest number of drug-related deaths in Australia.
Still, even the most liberally-minded when it comes to drug policy would surely frown upon anyone turning up to a music festival with nearly 900 MDMA capsules.