The law and order approach to drug use hasn’t worked, and we’ve seen too many young people dying tragically at music festivals nationwide.
We have to accept that despite all the efforts on enforcement and education, some young people still take illicit drugs. The right thing to do is to try to minimise the tragic harm and deaths that can result.
Clearly, we cannot encourage people to make safer choices unless we actually engage with them.
Led by the Greens, Canberra was the first Australian jurisdiction to realise a pill testing trial. Canberra is proof positive that pill testing works—and can potentially save lives.
The Greens were the first to advocate for a pill testing trial in the ACT. At the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra in April 2018, the nation’s first pill testing trial went ahead.
What does pill testing involve?
Pill testing involves a simple, on-site test by medical experts, using portable laboratory grade equipment. The test allows festival-goers to have a pill or drug chemically tested for toxic impurities that could harm or potentially kill them.
What happened at the Canberra pill testing trials?
Both pill testing trials to date have proved a success.
The first Canberra pill testing trial was a major step in realising a safer approach to drug use, finding at least one potentially fatal substance—and potentially saving at least two lives.
The second Canberra pill testing trial also found a range of dangerous substances, and potentially saved the lives of seven young people.
What else do we know about pill testing?
Pill testing has been available in many places in Europe for decades, where results show that the majority of people overwhelmingly choose not to consume their drugs when alerted to the risks involved. Contrary to encouraging drug use, pill testing equips people with the tools to make informed decisions to enable people to take better responsibility for their safety.
But the benefits of pill testing extend far beyond individual users. Results give health experts and law enforcement a better understanding of the drugs in circulation, helping prevent dangerous substances spreading uncontrolled.
Even from an economic point-of-view, pill testing makes sense. The cost of running pill testing stations is greatly outweighed by the savings made in the health system by preventing hospitalisations, death and injury.
When lives are on the line, we need to be guided by evidence. And the evidence tells us that pill testing saves lives. So, we can introduce a policy that benefits everybody. Or we can be remembered by our failure to act.
What’s next for pill testing?
The Greens will continue to advocate for pill testing at all Canberra music festivals: with our Federal Greens colleagues making the case for pill testing at festivals across the country.
We also know that people consume illicit ‘party drugs’ outside of music festivals.
The ACT Greens believe we should also consider pill testing outside of music festivals, furthering reduce the potential harm from drug use.
In countries like the Netherlands, pill testing is already the norm, with testing available at health centres available on a regular basis.
We can see a model where we've got the Canberra NightCrew who operate in Civic, having the pill testing operate alongside that for example on a Friday and Saturday night on a regular basis would really extend that harm minimisation model.