Despite the fact that it has been shown time and time again that allowing festival punters to test their pills results in fewer drug-related deaths, injuries and overdoses, the ACT government has STILL given a pill-testing initiative proposed for the Canberra leg of Groovin the Moo the kibosh.
National drug-use organisation Harm Reduction Australia approached the ACT government earlier this year, with a plan to trial pill testing for free at the festival in May. The government rejected the proposal on the grounds that it wasn’t “well enough formed“. HRA and its supporters are calling bullshit.
ANU senior clinical lecturer and emergency physician Dr David Caldicott told Fairfax that the proposal, which was based on a successful UK model, “was so minutely detailed that the minister’s office had the opportunity to ask ‘what uniforms would those conducting the pill testing be wearing?’
“If there were issues they wanted to discuss they would quite easily have raised them.“Every question that has been asked of us as a research group has been answered so unless they were keeping questions in reserve I suspect there are no questions that remain unanswered.”
The decision to turn down a pill-testing initiative that would have cost the government zilch and potentially saved lives is absolutely god-smacking. Particularly considering that Chief Minister Andrew Barr, when defending the government’s decision to the ABC, said:
“I need to be clear, the government is never going to endorse the taking of illegal drugs but we also have responsibilities around harm minimisation.“I consider this a health issue, not a law and order issue, but I do need to be clear that the government will not be endorsing the taking of illegal substances but we do recognise people do that and as much as we can provide support for other organisations.”
What that harm minimisation looks like if not letting people test their fun-dust before ingesting it, I just do not know.
Drug-taking in Australia is embedded in the culture; you’re not going to ever get people to just stop doing it. Pair that knowledge with the fact that the ecstasy circulating in Australia was found in 2015 to be among the most dangerous in the world, and it becomes abundantly clear that allowing pill-testing services at festivals is the absolute best way to minimise drug-related harm.
The discussion at high levels of government regarding drug use and health and safety has been going on for a long time, with a whole summit on the topic held early last year. Health professionals are overwhelmingly on the side of pill testing = good. Festival attendees have indicated over and over that they would use drug testing facilities, and we know it works thanks to ongoing successes in Europe.
But if we’re still watching state governments determinedly turning away resources that will stop people dying – I just don’t know how much good the discussion is doing any more. The whole thing is veering quickly into Mugatu territory.
Basically, for lack of a better phrase: