Pill-testing services will officially be available at Canberra’s Spilt Milk festival on November 25 on a trial basis, marking the first time the harm reduction measure has ever been enacted at an Australian music festival.
The landmark news comes after a long series of consultations between Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events and the territory’s government. Their final findings: well, if helping punters know what is in their pills could keep them from severe harm, pill-testing ought to be given a shot.
ACT health minister Meeghan Fitzharris today said pill-testing allows potential drug users to more clearly understand what they’ll be ingesting, and gives users the option to bin their pills if they’re found to contain unexpected substances.
Minister Fitzharris emphasised that the government wasn’t giving the thumbs up to illicit drug use with these measures, but noted the need to be “realistic because we’ve seen deaths at festivals, five in 2015 alone”.
She also reiterated the point pill-testing hasn’t been proven to increase the likelihood of drug-taking at festivals.
The testing will be operated by Harm Reduction Australia. The process will involve a survey regarding what the punter believes the pill to contain, followed by analysis of a small scraping of the pill in question.
Experts will be on deck to inform the festival-goer of the results, and provide guidance as to what they could expect should they ingest the pill. Amnesty bins – containing bleach, which will destroy the drugs – will be provided, should a punter decide not to take the risk.
Minister Fitzharris noted no legislation needed to be changed in order for pill-testing to be legally conducted, and that the mechanism of testing will mean the experts will never technically be in ‘possession’ of the drugs. Nifty.
The move to allow pill-testing at Spilt Milk comes after a similar proposal was denied for Groovin The Moo earlier this year.
Proponents of harm reduction have already praised the decision. Matt Noffs, CEO of the youth-focused drug and alcohol treatment charity Noffs Foundation, said “I see this as a natural evolution for harm reduction and I praise the ACT Government for looking at the evidence and acting to save lives.”
“Death is not an acceptable punishment for young people experimenting.”
Too right, tbh. Stay safe, friends.