Pill Testing Pilot for Drug Harm Reduction - Exposure Draft Bill Summary

The Victorian Greens have released the Exposure Draft Legislation for a Pill Testing Pilot in Victoria. To provide feedback on this bill, please email Victorian Greens Spokesperson for Health - Dr Tim Read MP

The purpose of the bill

The bill creates a pilot of pill-testing services in Victoria for the purposes of drug harm reduction.

The aim of this pilot program is to reduce hospital and paramedic attendances, reduce drug overdoses and save lives. It achieves this by providing information to potential drug users about the substances they intend to consume, and accurate information and education about the risks of drug taking and how to reduce them. It also provides referral services to people in need of further care.

The pill testing services

The bill creates two licences:

  • one licence for a mobile pill testing service that can attend music festivals, dance parties and similar events. 
  • one licence for a fixed-site service for more detailed analysis of drug products. 

It creates these licenses for two years, with the potential for extension for a further four years. It specifies that the pill testing services will be reviewed after one year.

The benefit of having two pilot services is that more sophisticated technology can be used at a fixed site to provide a more precise analysis of substances. It also enables pills to be tested throughout the year for a more rigorous pilot program and for the safety of the community throughout the year, not just during the festival season.

These pill testing services will:

  • measure the weight and take a small sample of the substances users are intending to take and return the remainder of the substance to the user or potential user;
  • provide users and potential users of those substances with information about the components of the substances, including providing a warning should the substance contain lethal or unexpected substances;
  • provide users and potential users of those substances with information that reduces the risks posed by those substances;
  • provide users or potential users of those substances with access to an amnesty bin where substances can be disposed of and immediately destroyed;
  • facilitate users and potential users of those substances accessing other health and social assistance which includes drug treatment, rehabilitation, health care, mental health treatment and support and counselling as needed;
  • further reduce the potential for harm by providing information about the dangerous substances detected during pill-testing service to (i) the Chief Health Officer; (ii) the Department of Health and Human Services  (iii) the Chief Commissioner of Police. 

It is intended that if required, the Chief Health Officer (CHO) could issue a health alert to warn members of the public about a lethal drug circulating. This is not specified in the legislation as it is part of the CHO's existing public health responsibilities, but can be clarified in regulation if needed. 

It is also intended that the Department will use this information to create a harm reduction web portal, where people can find reliable information about batches of drugs circulating that have been deemed particularly dangerous, or have been found to contain lethal substances, as well as information about the risks of drugs, and how to reduce the harm of drug taking. This is also not specified in the legislation as it more a matter of government policy, but we will make this intention clear in introducing the bill.

Further details

The bill sets up the framework for governance and management of the pill testing services with requirements regarding applications for the licences, revocation of the licences and the conditions of the licences. 

It also specifies basic structure and staffing arrangements, requirements for establishing service protocols, safe disposal of the drug samples taken, data collection and reporting. 

It includes a fit and proper person test for the Director and staff of the pill testing services.

It allows for transfer of drugs between the mobile and fixed site for further testing when required for public safety.

It specifies that pill testing services are not to be provided to children, people under 18 years old. 

It provides exemptions and protections from drug laws in relation to possession and supply of drugs for pill testing service workers and for the drug users or potential drug users within the confines of the pill testing services. Outside the pill testing service police can use their discretion, as is the case with safe injection and other drug harm reduction services. 

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