Australian Senate calls For Pill Testing At Festivals

The Australian Senate passed a motion by the Greens Party calling for the Australian government to legalise pill-testing and ban sniffer drug dogs at music festivals “before the upcoming summer season.” Most states have refused to approve them. 

But after six deaths and hundreds of overdoses at festivals last summer, a number of medical professionals and drug experts warned they expect at least a dozen deaths at festivals over the 2016-17 southern hemisphere summer. They intend to trial current laws with unauthorised tests. Greens Leader Dr. Richard Di Natale, a former drug and alcohol clinician, said that festival patrons tended to panic when they saw police dogs and swallow their stash.

“They tend to cause more harm than good,” he said. Will Tregoning from harm reduction group Unharm told the government-run national youth radio network triple j that he may test the law with tests at the Groovin’ The Moo and Spilt Milk festivals in Canberra where, he says, police are more receptive to instituting more safety measures.

While he’s hoping various state governments might green-light a trial period, “Civil disobedience shouldn’t be ruled out. That’s definitely an option, but our objective is to have [pill testing] rolled out as a very mainstream service across the country, so the question is what is the most effective way to get to that point, not just what can we do in the short term.”

It is not known if Tregoning is working with drug experts Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Canberra physician David Caldicott, who pushed for tests earlier this year. Faced with threats of arrest if they did, the two crowd-funded enough funds to set up pop up on-site laboratories, and held meetings with state authorities.