The national campaign for drug law reform, Take Control, is pleading with the NSW Government to make music festivals safer by reconsidering their staunch opposition to pill-testing, following yet another tragedy this weekend.
A young man died and two other people have been hospitalised after taking an “unknown substance” at the Central Coast’s Lost Paradise Festival on Saturday, marking the second fatal overdose at a NSW festival in less than a month.
“This doesn’t need to be the summer of festival deaths,” Ted Noffs Foundation CEO and campaign spokesperson Matt Noffs says in a statement. “We have doctors and drug treatment experts standing by to make live music and festivals safer for our kids with pill testing.”
The organisation is urging punters to sign an open letter urging NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to stop playing politics with young lives.
“Please Premier – this is not the time to blinding follow the ‘just say no’ failed strategy,” he begs. “Please at least listen to the evidence and come to the table so that we can make music festivals safer.”
His statement continues:
“Young people can get drugs easily, but don’t know what they are taking. In responding to tragedy we must sometimes face hard truths. Decades of a punitive approach where we arrest young people has not worked. It is time to take practical steps to make parties safer for our kids.
The NSW Government is already halfway there – supporting a range of harm minimisation measures. It makes sense to extend this to a proven service that will make our kids safer at music festivals.
We’ve said it time and time again: despite dealers being caught every day, more simply replace them. Lives are being ruined with severe charges for possession. Worst of all, it’s hard for people with problems to get help because they’re treated like criminals.
Pill testing is not a silver bullet but it’s a excellent way to help prevent this kind of tragedy and has majority support from Australians.”
It comes after a teen died of an overdose at a Sydney dance music event just a few weeks ago.
Take Control’s calls for drug policy reform fell on deaf ears after that tragedy, with Premier Berejiklian quick to hose down any talk of changing the NSW Government’s mind on pill-testing.
“Unfortunately, we know that pill testing won’t work because it’ll give people a green light to taking substances, which in the end could still kill them,” she said at the time.
Gladys also previously vowed to shut down the Defqon.1 dance festival after two people died and three more were hospitalised in a critical condition following the Sydney event earlier this year.
Blaming the event itself for the tragedy, she claimed that anyone advocating for pill testing as a solution to help stop fatal overdoses was “giving the green light to drugs”.
However, her statements have been proven categorically false by ABC Fact Checkers , with RMIT researchers previously demonstrating that the conservative catch-cry that pill-testing leads to more deaths is complete BS.
“There is no evidence that pill-testing results in festival attendees and partygoers taking more drugs and dying as a consequence,” researcher Claudia Long says. “There is evidence to suggest that pill-testing can make some users more likely to dispose of their drugs or take smaller quantities of them.”
While the landmark trial came back with some disturbing details about some of the 83 drugs tested, the upshot of those results was that many of the punters who owned the bad drugs decided to bin them rather than risk their lives, causing many commentators to hail the whole thing a big success.
To sign Take Control’s open letter to the Premier, which essentially begs her to listen to the evidence and reconsider trialling life-saving pill-testing measures at local festivals, head here.