News April 17, 2018

Politicians, musicians, biz executives, drug advocates push for pill testing in ACT

Politicians, musicians, biz executives, drug advocates push for pill testing in ACT

While the stalemate continues over pill testing at the Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra, there is a push by politicians and the music industry to get the festival to change its mind.

As reported earlier in TMN, the festival wants to be totally indemnified from any legal repercussions.

Drug testing advocates said they offered to indemnify promoter Cattleyard Promotions from any police action following pill testing.

But they claim the promoter wanted full indemnification, including apparently any possession or supplying charges.

As the April 29 Canberra show looms, ACT Greens leader and spokesperson for drug law reform, Shane Rattenbury, has sent an open letter to Cattleyard Promotions containing “a strong message” for the promoter to reconsider.

It is signed by three bands on the bill, Ocean Alley, Cosmo’s Midnight and Moaning Lisa, as well as Gavin Findlay, vice-president of Music ACT and Tim Hollo, chief executive officer of Green Music Australia.

Other signatories were from Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform, Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation & Advocacy (CAHMA) and The Connection, Public Health Association of Australia, World Federation of Public Health Associations, ACT Council of Social Service Inc, Unharm, Noffs Foundation, Australia 21 and Social Research & Evaluation Pty Ltd.

See open letter here http://keepcanberrasafe.org.au/.

In the meantime, there is a call for the issue to be debated in NSW, which has long ruled out pill-testing because it “does the work for drug pedlars” and “undermines the work of the police”, as authorities previously stated.

Jenny Aitchison, MP for Maitland, NSW – where Groovin The Moo  plays on April 28 – has publicly stated that she would support pill-testing at festivals in the state if it was part of a wider discussion about drug reform and heavy use of ice in regional areas.

“The Government’s approach to drugs has generally been pretty poor. It’s a conversation we need to have – one our government isn’t qualified to have,” she said.

Also critical of government stances is Dr. Andrew Groves, a lecturer in Criminology who specialises in research on alcohol and other drug use, of Deakin University .

He published an independent review of the National Drug Strategy in the open access Harm Reduction Journal.

“The most surprising finding of our research is that the evidence has clearly identified the inadequacy of existing punitive, zero tolerance strategies across several countries, and yet such policies often remain embedded in government legislative action,” he said.

“While we still need further evaluation of how best to implement pill testing and other harm reduction initiatives, the evidence suggests that they are useful and there is widespread support from the community and practitioners in the field.

The review looks at Portugal which has legalised pill-testing, Austria’s chEckiT project which showed that two-thirds of those who found their drugs were toxic did not return, and a pill-testing program in the Netherlands which proved that it did not increase use of party drugs.

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