Tasmania takes first step towards pill testing at festivals
Member of Franklin, Rosalie Woodruff of the Greens party, has tabled a bill in parliament that takes the first step.
The Misuse of Drugs Amendment (Drug Analysis) Bill 2018 sets up the legal framework which protects those who have their drugs tested at festivals from being prosecuted by police for possessing them.
It also sets up the establishment of an advisory committee to deal with the issues.
The day-to-day details of pill-testing would still need to be worked out.
Rosalie Woodruff claims the changes are long overdue. “The current government’s ‘tough on crime’ approach is outdated and clearly doesn’t work.
“International research shows pill testing saves lives.
“Our bill brings together clinicians, police, community services and paramedics to advise government on safe drug testing and to provide a legal framework for the delivery of pill testing.
“We should be doing everything possible to keep young people safe. I hope the Liberals and Labor will support this life-saving law reform when it is brought on for debate.”
However, the Liberals have rejected it outright, with premier Jeremy Rockcliff standing firm, “Let’s be very clear, no drugs are safe in our community.”
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) supports pill testing, with spokesperson Greg Barns emphasising, “Year after year there are deaths and serious harm at music festivals and pill testing will help minimise this.
“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these festivals are safe and we know that pill testing will save lives.”
Barns pointed at the success of trials in the ACT and Europe and also at the problem at Falls festivals.
“Every year police use sniffer dogs and make arrests. Young people then are shunted through the court system.
“This approach does not reduce demand for drugs and does not recognise the reality of drug use at music festivals.”
The Police Association of Tasmania’s acting president Gavin Cashion argued that supporting tests is “sending the wrong message by saying it‘s okay to break the law. “Pill testing is effectively ‘doing quality assurance for drug pushers.”
He added: “People have a choice – to take drugs or not take drugs.”
Alison Lai, CEO of the Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania (ATDC) says pill testing is an “important” part of various options to tackle drugs, calling it “a critical intervention point where we can influence the harm of illicit drugs by providing an anonymous and confidential way”.