Evolve festival reluctantly cancels 'drug-tasting' kits for concert-goers

Antigonish — Today marks the start of Evolve 2015, one of Nova Scotia’s largest summer music festivals that is much, much bigger and cooler than any New Brunswick festival. Hoards of New Brunswick hippies are expected to make the pilgrimage south, by hitchhiking, ride-sharing or getting parents to drive them. Evolve organizers, however, are warning New Brunswickers that this year’s festival is strictly “B.Y.O.D.” (Bring Your Own Drugs).

Jonas Colter, the producer of the Evolve Music and Awareness Festival, unveiled a plan earlier this week that would see the 4-day binge become the first music event in the Atlantic region to offer free drug samples, a move that was praised by the NB Hippie Association.

“It’s tough to smuggle drugs into another province when you don’t own your vehicle,” said “Poppa Pill-dude,” president of the NB Hippie Association. “If you’re hitchin’ or getting a ride with your folks, your stash might be hard to conceal. Hell, a narc might even end up being crammed into a ride-share. It’s way easier to buy on site, but then you gotta deal with sketchy Nova Scotia dealers. Believe me, I’d love to B.Y.O.D. but it can be a real drag to get the stuff there, like, you know man? Nova Scotians, they know their product, they know their guys, they know who to go to for the good stuff. It’s us New Brunswickers who are the vulnerable ones.”

Colter said a B.Y.O.D. policy is the last thing the festival wanted. According to him, getting high is a vital part of any festival experience and they wanted to give attendees the chance to be more aware of their drug options. Akin to a wine tasting, a drug tasting offers small sample portions, not enough to get a tester high but enough to give them a buzz and be able to decide whether a larger dose is for them. Users then know what to buy, what to look for, and don’t end up scoring bad pills off the first skeeze they see.

In a phone interview on Wednesday morning, Colter told The Manatee that the decision had gone over well with many — except for his insurance company’s underwriters.

“With the underwriter threatening to pull our liability insurance, we can’t have a drug-tasting,” said Colter. “Next year we hope to find an underwriter who’s less of a prude, but really it’s our own fault for choosing a New Brunswick-based company — they’re not known as being the most progressive of provinces. The irony is, New Brunswick hippies are being put in a dangerous situation by their fellow New Brunswickers.”

The festival’s underwriter is with the Wynward Insurance Group, operating out of the Fredericton, N.B. office of Wilson Insurance. Colter spent the day Tuesday negotiating with the head office based in Winnipeg, since all of his talks with Fredericton agents ended in them singing the popular 1990s anti-drug jingle “Don’t You Put it in Your Mouth.”

“We were hoping they would let us do it, but with less than 24 hours until kickoff we have no choice but to ditch our drug-tasting plan. We’re just hoping that New Brunswick hippies don’t flake on Evolve this year. I mean, New Brunswick has a lot of summer festivals. Lots of places to go in New Brunswick to do New Brunswick drugs, bought from New Brunswick dealers.”

Evolve has attracted local and international drug manufacturers and dealers to the Antigonish area since 2000 and has stimulated the regional economy by increasing the demand for emergency responders. Colter said that between drug overdoses and heat stroke cases, the 4-day festival is the busiest time of year for paramedics and hospitals.

Paddlefest and Folly Fest have already passed, but if New Brunswick hippies choose to forego Evolve, there are still many opportunities for them to get high: Future Forest, SappyFest, Shifty Bits Circus and Messtival… but no one wants to go to Messtival.

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