Pill Testing An Issue As Aussies Fests Loom

The beginning of the Australian summer Dec. 1 has reignited the issue of pill-testing at music festivals.  

While the New South Wales (NSW) government and police continue to stand against them, the Australian Drug Law Reform (ADLR) Foundation, Harm Reduction Australia and drug law reform advocate Unharm insist it will help save lives.

Last summer, six people died at festivals. In February, ADLR president Dr. Alex Wodak and emergency medical specialist Dr. David Caldicott announced they would carry out private tests at NSW festivals regardless of official sanctions.

The government responded with threats of arrests. During this summer, activists are using their own funds to make available A$10 ($7.47) legal, self-testing pill kits for free on sites. But these tests are basic and unable to detect cutting agents that could be deadly or fatal.

“This is definitely not our preferred option, it is our only available option,” said Harm Reduction Australia president Gino Vumbaca. Added Will Tregonning, executive director of Unharm, “Australia has one of the highest per capita rates of ecstasy consumption in the world and it seems to be one of the most contaminated.”

Activists are also eying the Australian Capital Territory, with a last-minute push to persuade its government to green-light tests at the Dec. 3 Spilt Milk festival in Canberra.

The minor Greens party joined the call, with party leader Shane Rattenbury confirming he had written to ACT chief minister Andrew Barr Nov. 9 to urge him to approve a test.