Australian health and drug groups are leading renewed calls for drug disposal or amnesty bins to be available at local music festivals, which would give punters the chance to get rid of any drugs before risking getting caught or dangerously consuming their stash.
As Fairfax Media reports, Harm Reduction Victoria chairman Bill O’Loughlin says amnesty bins at festivals are a good “halfway measure” which could help prevent people from making “panicked decisions” after seeing police sniffer dogs.
Mr O’Loughlin says drug amnesty bins wouldn’t negatively impact police operations, and would also give drug experts the chance to analyse whatever is discarded in the bins. “It gives them unique access to the drugs that are in circulation,” he says.
Australian Drug Foundation chief executive John Rogerson says he would support a trial run of amnesty bins at local music festivals. “I’d certainly be supportive of trying to see whether it works,” he says.
Drug amnesty bins have been used at overseas music festivals like Glastonbury in the United Kingdom, and according to the below tweet from Busselton Police were also set to be used at Western Australia’s Southbound Festival earlier this month, before the event was cancelled:
— Busselton Police (@BusseltonPolice) January 6, 2016
Martin Foley, Victoria’s Mental Health Minister, says there are no plans to begin providing amnesty bins at public events. “We will continue to work with Victoria police and our many successful festivals to keep people safe,” he says.
The founder of Stereosonic music festival, Richie McNeill, has also called for drug amnesty bins at festivals. “I think festivals should have amnesty bins,” he says.
“But the police say they can’t, because if people put stuff in the bins, they have to arrest them for possession. That’s just the way the law is written. The fact we don’t implement such a simple solution is mind boggling.”
Mr McNeill and Harm Reduction Victoria are also calling for pill-testing to be available for ticket-holders at festivals, to allow them to have the contents of their drugs tested.
In December 2015, 83 per cent of over 10,000 responses to a Music Feeds poll were in favour of Australian festivals introducing drug testing facilities. Since then, drug experts have discussed what it would take for Aussie festivals to implement these pill tests.
Earlier this month, the NSW Government threatened to shut down music festivals which don’t improve their safety standards after an “unexpected level” of drug-related festival deaths, including the hospitalisation of a 23-year-old woman after an apparent overdose at Sydney’s Field Day festival, where 184 people were charged with drug offences.
Earlier this week, Victoria Police brought the future of Lexton’s Rainbow Serpent Festival into question after dealing with a concerning number of drug-related incidents.