The push for pill testing in Victoria will gain steam this week as three cross-bench parties prepare to challenge the new Premier to take action by supporting their joint bill for a trial.
The Pill Testing Pilot for Drug Harm Reduction Bill was introduced at the end of last year by the Victorian Greens, the Animal Justice Party, and Legalise Cannabis Victoria.
It would establish a mobile pill testing service for major music festivals, as well as a fixed-site service for more detailed analysis year round. Both sites would be licensed for two years with the potential for a four-year extension following a review.
A recently obtained Parliamentary Budget Office costing has revealed a trial could cost as little as $3.7 million dollars, if Victoria used a similar model to the one used in Canberra.
With Parliament returning this week, the progressive parties say the time to act is now.
They say they hope their historic bill makes it clear that protecting young people from overdose or drug-related death is above politics or party lines.
Earlier this month, the new Premier said she was planning to “seek further advice” on pill testing before making further comment, following several festival-related hospitalisations in Victoria.
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens drug harm reduction spokesperson, Aiv Puglielli MLC:
“The new Premier has said she's seeking further advice on pill testing. Well, the advice is clear, and it has been for years.
“Young Victorians are heading to music festivals and taking pills laced with potentially lethal substances. So far, Labor has dusted their hands of any responsibility on this.
“Each day the new Premier refuses to back pill testing is another day a young person is at risk of overdose or worse.
“This is an opportunity to show courage, listen to the experts and save lives, rather than play to the politics of fear.
“Sniffer dogs will not save lives. Tough talk from cops and politicians will not save lives. Pill testing will.”
Quotes attributable to Animal Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria, Georgie Purcell MLC:
“As some of the youngest members of the Victorian Parliament, we know that people take drugs. We also know the risk of drug harm significantly increases when we head into the summer festival season. There’s an easy way to fix it.
“Growing up and experimenting should not be a death sentence. But the reality is, far too many young people are not making it home from parties or music festivals.
“The evidence is clear: pill testing saves lives. It doesn’t encourage drug use, it just simply makes it safer for those who do. And it’s time for the Victorian Government to commit to it.”
Quotes attributable to Legalise Cannabis Victoria Member for South-East Metro, Rachel Payne MLC:
“We appreciate that the Premier has opened the door and thank her for coming to the table.
“This summer we’ve already seen multiple overdoses and hospitalisations. We have seen reports of pills being sold as MDMA that are in fact dangerous doses of opioids. We have seen new and emerging drugs that even specialised drug checking experts are scratching their heads at. The only logical way to prevent harm and reduce risk, particularly to young people, is to green light drug checking services.
“This is not just about reducing harms - it is also considering the impact on the ambos that are called out to festivals with multiple people requiring urgent attention, it’s about the cost of hospitalisation, policing and the impact it has on families and the wider community.
“‘Just say no’ to drugs doesn’t work - but pill testing does work! It allows that young person the opportunity to make an informed choice and get advice from an expert.”