Voting Opens for Drug Testing Kits Referendum at LUU

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Students at the University of Leeds are currently voting in a referendum about whether Leeds University Union should provide drug testing kits for students who are taking drugs.

Voting is open from Monday 9th December to Wednesday 12th December and all students who are registered with the students’ union are eligible to vote.

The policy was proposed at this term’s Better Forums. Here ideas are proposed for Union policy both internally as well as externally to apply pressure on the University and the Council to take action on certain issues. An idea must pass 12 votes out of 15 in order to automatically become Union policy. 

Ideas that passed at this year’s forums included the Union taking a pro-choice stance on reproductive justice and maintaining a 3:1 student-staff ratio in the Union. Better University forums that passed included lobbying the University to give retail spaces to independent business and entrepreneurial students , to implement a strategy to close the BAME Awarding gap and to reduce the amount of red meat sold on campus.

The policy proposal for drug testing kits only reached 11 votes meaning that it goes to a campus-wide referendum. In order for the motion to pass, 1500 students must vote with a simple majority in favour of introducing the policy.

The policy comes after a survey was done last year to inform the Union on how best to ensure student safety when it comes to drug taking. 88.6% of students who responded to the survey and already take drugs said that they would test drugs if the option became available. Currently if a student wanted to test any drugs they wish to take, they would have to buy a kit online or go through charities like The Loop.

In a statement, LUU’s Welfare Officer Amy Wells said: 

The question of whether LUU should provide drug testing kits to students as part of our drug harm reduction campaign is now at a campus-wide referendum. In the drugs survey last year, 88.6% of students who take drugs said that they would test them for purity if they had access to kits.

Students take drugs – “just say no” has failed. Students take drugs for a complex number of reasons with many to cope with mental health problems in a time when access to professional help can seem impossible. LUU does not condone or condemn drug taking. The new drug use policy I will be taking to the next Board of Trustees meeting will mean we simply aim to educate, inform and empower students about their own wellbeing choices. We ultimately want to reduce the number of students dying as a result of substance misuse. One of the ways we can do this, and one aspect of this campaign, is to provide testing kits for students. We need 1,500 votes and it only takes a minute – read more and vote here: https://voting.luu.org.uk/referendum/

If you’re struggling with a substance misuse problem, or worried about someone else, you can talk confidentially to LUU Advice in the foyer (by email, phone, or in person) or Forward Leeds at their drop in on Thursdays, 5-6pm, LUU foyer. Any information given will NOT be passed onto the University.

The Gryphon earlier this published a piece detailing how students who will be taking drugs can do so as safely as possible.

In a brief on the referendum page on the Union’s website says: 

“Drug testing would allow students to make more informed choices about their drug use, and live safer lives while in Leeds. It would be a practical part of a broader harm reduction campaign on staying informed and getting better support from the University and Union”.

In an opinion piece last year, student Charley Weldrick argued:

“It’s time for Leeds University Union to follow suit. We would be far from the first university to provide free drug testing kits which students can take home to make sure their pills won’t kill them. 

Universities in Manchester, Sussex and Newcastle already provide them. In fact, demand is growing so much across the country that the NUS is starting to explore purchasing the kits in bulk and distributing them to universities.”

There is currently no case being made against introducing the policy. To vote in the referendum, click here