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"Bunk Police" Test Festival Drugs for Purity

A volunteer group that tests drugs for purity at music festivals tells The Fix about its mission to reduce harm.

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The "Bunk Police" badge. Photo via

By Bryan Le

07/10/12

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If the terms “drug-testing" or "police" strike terror into your heart, you can relax. It's your dodgy drugs—not you—that the Bunk Police are cracking down on. They're a group of volunteers who attend music festivals armed with substance testing kits, and check the purity of the illicit substances being passed around. Checking drugs to ensure purity and then moving on may be a controversial way to protect festival-goers—but the Bunk Police claim their intentions are to reduce harm, rather than condone drug use. “We do not feel that we are encouraging substance use by distributing test kits,” an anonymous member of the group tells The Fix. “We provide a service along the same lines as Planned Parenthood does in distributing condoms: reducing the harms of risky behavior.”

From Woodstock to the Electric Daisy Carnival, music festivals have long been druggy affairs—often stirring public outcry. Just recently, Rihanna was photographed at Coachella Festival messing with an unidentified drug, and the 420 Festival is one that's been accused of dangerously encouraging a mix of marijuana and "rave" drugs like MDMA. But many of the drugs circulating at music festivals can be "bunk": fake or untested compounds, or cut with chemicals with potentially lethal side-effects. According to the Bunk Police website, "MDMA" is sometimes actually "bath salts" in disguise—and just about anything dropped on a tab can be sold as LSD (although, reportedly, most LSD "tabs" are actually just plain pieces of paper). 

Despite their flashy branding, and the warm welcome they receive at many druggy venues, the Bunk Police insist they're not "professional partiers" and say their mission is not about making drugs seem cool. Instead, they claim to deter drug use by revealing just how contaminated illicit drugs are: amazingly, over half of their tested samples are research chemicals, not recreational drugs. “Our mission consists entirely of raising awareness and increasing safety,” they tell us. “We have no intention of making substance use 'fun,' however we must skirt this edge in order to appeal to our audience. Preaching safety alone to many individuals in this circle will only yield eye-rolls and scoffs rather than attention and action.”

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