Pill testing advocates are continuing their push to shift the focus of Australia’s drug policy from punishment to harm minimisation, in a bid to, ya know, stop people from dying. And the new battleground where the war against ‘the war on drugs’ mindset shall be fought is none other than the political nerve centre of our fair nation.
The ACT Greens are looking to trial pill testing services at Canberra music festivals, and have pledged to push the idea in the next Legislative Assembly.
In the face of rampant opposition from pollies whose considered response to the mountain of scientific evidence supporting pill testing as an effective solution to preventing drug overdoses has been the political equivalent of this:
Greens candidate for Brindabella, Michael Mazengarb, tells the ABC that the ACT’s leaders need to wake up.
“The old ways of harsh law and order approaches to drugs simply isn’t working,” he says. “We need a new approach to put the community first and that’s why the ACT Greens are giving people the opportunity to learn about the impacts of drug use and get their pills tested at festival sites.”
On the eve of International Overdose Awareness Day, Mazengarb announced that his party would push for the trial after October’s election, which would could be rolled out at ACT-based music festivals like Spilt Milk or Gingerfest.
“The other parties have had years to take action and they’ve failed,” he says, potentially referring to the Baird Government’s recent threat to shut down NSW music festivals that failed to stamp out drug use, while advocating the most forehead slap-worthy drug overdose prevention strategy of all time – telling kids “just don’t take the pills and you’ll be fine!” – because they’ll totally listen to you so problem solved!
Meanwhile, there’ve been six drug-related deaths at Australian music festivals over the past year, among countless other tragedies fuelled by our nation’s growing ecstasy epidemic.
“We would use whatever ability we’ve got within a new Legislative Assembly after the 2016 election to negotiate with the two major parties to see what we can get up,” Mazengarb says.
Meanwhile, at the same time that Mike Baird has made it clear he’s willing to shut down every music festival in New South Wales before he even considers giving pill testing a go, a group of leading Australian health experts have moved to independently bankroll a pill-testing trial, vowing to defy Baird’s ultra-conservative regime and even endure mass arrests if it means preventing the kind of fatal drug overdoses like we saw at Stereosonic this past summer.
Meanwhile, a veritable justice league of politicians, doctors, public health and drug experts, criminologists, lawyers, policy writers, researchers and police have joined forces to create the The Canberra Declaration, which calls for a major paradigm shift in the way that Australia thinks about, and tackles, drug use.
Among their recommended changes: decriminalisation, ditching sniffer dogs and introducing pill testing. And, according to our 2015 poll of over 10,000 Music Feeds readers, over 80 per cent of you would agree.