Music fest crowdfunds for drug-checking machine

 For the past 14 years, organizers of a giant electronic music festival on a British Columbia mountain ranch have quietly helped participants test their recreational drugs to find out what substances are inside.

Shambhala organizers will also hand out 4,000 pamphlets warning about the deadly drug fentanyl to those attending the festival that starts Wednesday.

But what they really want to increase safety is a miniature mobile mass spectrometer.

Unable to secure government funding for the sophisticated drug-testing machine, which could cost up to $250,000 or more, organizers have launched an online crowdfunding campaign hoping to make the purchase by next year. The machine can detect many ingredients in one substance.

The campaign comes amid the declaration of a public health emergency over a surge of opioid overdose deaths in the province, many of them related to fentanyl.

Premier Christy Clark announced last week that a task force had been created to scale up the response. One of its stated goals is to improve street drug checking.

But Shambhala organizers say they can’t wait.

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