A motion just passed through the senate calling on pill testing and removal of sniffer dogs at festivals

A motion just passed through the senate calling on pill testing and removal of sniffer dogs at festivals

The Greens has called on the Government to introduce pill testing and remove sniffer dogs at festivals.

Whether it be Laneway, Falls, Southbound, Beyond The Valley, Field Day, ORIGIN or the plethora of other Australian festivals, it's pretty much guaranteed nowadays that 1) there will be illicit drugs at music festivals and 2) a fair share of people will use these said illicit drugs. It's a matter of life and something that's always gonna be there and always has been, despite deaths or life-changing neurological damage. The topic of whether we should become accepted to this or otherwise is a story for another day, but the fact of the matter is that the safety of these people taking illicit drugs at festivals is something that needs to be talked about right now, especially going into the upcoming summer festival season, with Listen Out (seen by many as the opening festival of the year's festival season) only weeks away.

It's become common knowledge now that the days of sniffer dogs (which has been found to actually cause deaths, not really save 'em) and threatening advertisements are doing nothing to prevent drug use from occurring at or outside music festivals, so there's become a recent amount of pressure for the Australian Government and each state's respective police force to rethink their approach to festival drug use, with even artists rallying to encourage the Government to rethink their strategies. The first hint that the Government and Health Department might be revisiting their approach to festival drug use came a few months ago, with senior police and politicians backing an idea of a trial period of pill testing at festivals, brought to light by Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Alex Wodak and Canberra physician David Caldicott, who were planning on introducing a pill testing service at festivals in New South Wales despite possible arrest and charges from doing so (the NSW government were super against pill testing, as you might guess on their efforts to curb alcohol use in public through the early closure of liquor stores and nightclubs).

Today brings the biggest move towards festival pill testing that we've seen yet, with The Greens successfully passing a motion through the senate calling on the Government to rethink their approach to drug use at festivals, including the enforcement of pill testing programs and the removal of sniffer dogs on festival sites. Whilst it's not quite a light flashing saying "hey! We've done it! Pill testing is coming!", it's the most successful attempt at encouraging the Government to act we've had yet, which was coincidentally passed on International Overdose Awareness Day. The motion calls for the Government to implement a range of harm-reduction measures (not drug-reduction, which we've currently got in place) for drug users, including access to clean, sterilised syringe and needle programs and medically-supervised injection rooms (to prevent disease, overdose and various other factors), as well as “working with state and territory governments to cease the use of drug sniffer dogs at festivals and urgently introduce trials of pill testing for the upcoming festival season”.

Despite the exception of a few senators and pretty much the whole New South Wales State Government (excluding names like Greens MP Jenny Leong, who previously tried to introduce a similar bill earlier this year), there's rumours that pill testing might be coming to Canberra this festival season (whether the ACT likes it or not), which hopefully will be mirrored by other States in the upcoming few months. In the meantime, read the full motion below and in case it doesn't get passed before the upcoming few festivals, remember there's plenty of online resources that can fill you with information to keep you safe.

The Greens' Motion to curb drug death and injuries this forthcoming year and beyond (via Music Feeds):

That the Senate –

(a) notes that:

  • (i) today is the 15th annual International Overdose Awareness Day, commemorating all those who have died or been seriously injured due to drug overdose, and
  • (ii) six people lose their lives to preventable overdose in Australia each day; and

(b) calls on the Government to address the rising rates of harm associated with drug use by implementing and appropriately resourcing evidence-based harm reduction policies, including:

  • (i) greater access to needle and syringe programs across the country with an urgent roll-out of trials inside prisons,
  • (ii) expanded access to medically supervised injecting facilities across Australia,
  • (iii) promoting awareness of the life-saving opioid reversal drug Naloxone, and highlighting its availability over the counter in pharmacies, and
  • (iv) working with state and territory governments to cease the use of drug sniffer dogs at festivals and urgently introduce trials of pill testing for the upcoming festivals season.

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