ORIGINAL STORY: In a landmark move, the ACT Government has approved a free pill testing trial at this year’s Spilt Milk festival in Canberra.
As the ABC reports, the Aussie first comes on the heels of months of negotiations. Basically, in a bid to save young lives, they’ll now be allowing Spilt Milk punters to test their party drugs before they enter the festival, without fear of arrest.
“Pill testing means young people who are considering taking drugs can be informed about what’s really in the their pills and how potent they are,” explains ACT Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris. “And it creates an opportunity to remind them of the risks before they make the final decision to take a drug.
“There is no evidence that having pill testing available results in increased illicit drug taking.”
The free, anonymous pill testing services will by run by the peeps from Safety Testing & Advisory Service at Festivals & Events (STA-SAFE). One of its member groups, Harm Reduction Australia, has welcomed the ACT Government’s decision.
“Good on the ACT,” says President Gino Vumbaca. “They’re quite progressive and they’re actually prepared to have an open mind and listen to the science and evidence.” (FYI that’s in stark contrast to the NSW Government, who’ve quite literally vowed to shut down every music festival in the state before they’d ever consider pill testing).
“We’re talking about safe drug use,” Vumbaca clarifies. “We want people to be as safe as they can be when they’re using drugs, and that means knowing what they’re actually using.
“One thing that we’ve made very clear is that we won’t be telling people that it’s safe to use a particular drug. There are harms associated with any drug use. What we’re trying to do is make it safer.
“It won’t be promoting drug use, but it won’t be condemning drug use either. It will be a non-judgmental approach.”
As for how the whole pill-testing process will work, the logistics are still being nutted out. But Vumbaca tells the ABC it could look a little something like this:
“There will be a short survey taken about what drugs people think they’re taking. And then there will be a very small scraping of the pill they’ll provide for testing and analysis. That normally takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
People will be able to find out, if they’re going to take a particular substance, what it is they’re actually taking, compared to what they think they’re taking.
The composition of the substance will be analysed. It will give quite a detailed analysis of the content of that drug and the levels of the different chemicals in that drug. From there, we’ll have people there who will be able to provide feedback about what those particular chemicals are and what may be expected as a result.”
Meanwhile, amnesty bins will be provided on site for punters to trash any drugs they’ve deemed too dodgy to risk taking, following the toxicology results.
It’s also important to note that police won’t be out to spring festivalgoers using the pill testing services, with Vumbaca likening a system of cop discretion similar to what’s been exercised before with the country’s needle and syringe programs.
“When we first started those in Australia, what police could have done is sit outside the needle and syringe program, see who went in and see who came out, and then make arrests,” he says. “That would shut down the service and no one would ever go again.
“There’s no public health interest in police doing that.”
The ACT’s groundbreaking decision to greenlight potentially life-saving pill testing services at Spilt Milk comes after the same government decided not to introduce the measures at Canberra’s Groovin The Moo festival earlier this year. Goes to show that a lot can change in the space of a few months.
As for whether or not the move will have a domino effect on other Aussie festivals, that remains to be seen.
“[It’s] one step at a time,” Vumbaca says, as other state governments like NSW still see harm minimisation approaches such as pill testing as being tantamount to condoning illegal drug use.
Meanwhile, Canberra’s sold-out Spilt Milk festival is set to go down on Saturday, 25th November with performances from some huge acts including Lorde, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Alison Wonderland.
Music Feeds has contacted festival organisers for comment on the pill testing news.
Catch the full Spilt Milk 2017 lineup below.
Spilt Milk 2017 Lineup
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Remi x Sampa The Great
What So Not
Spilt Milk 2017
Saturday, 25th November — SOLD OUT
Commonwealth Park, Canberra
Tickets: Official Website