Harsher penalties for festivals
In the past 6 months 5 people have died of suspected overdoses at music festivals. These deaths have caused unthinkable heartache for their loved ones and furthered the case for pill testing trials to continue. Yet with each death, the “War on Drugs” is getting worse as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian comes down hard with harsher penalties and regulations for NSW festival organisers. The new regulations put extreme pressure on ‘high risk’ festivals to adhere to increased safety, licensing and security requirements, and have already forced the cancelation of Mountain Sounds Festival one week out from the event.
“The Liberal party’s war on festivals in NSW is real and it’s robbing you of your freedom and culture”– Mountain Sounds.
The case for and against
Berejiklian has continued to share concerns around pill testing – that it creates a false sense of security and gives patrons the green light to take drugs. On the other side of the argument is Dr David Caldicott, who led the first pill-testing trial in Australia. Dr Caldicott states that at no point during the trial were patrons told their drugs were ‘safe’. Under the pill-testing protocol, once provided with the results of their pills, festival-goers spoke with a drug and alcohol counsellor about the risks involved when taking illicit substances and risk reduction.
The pill-testing trial evidence
Last year Groovin The Moo Canberra (GTM) conducted this first pill-testing trial, with results showing the testing was linked to behavioural changes. Of 125 participants, 42 per cent said they would either take less than originally planned or none at all. Any one of those changes could have been a life saved. Federal Labor backbencher Senator Lisa Singh and Liberal backbencher Warren Entsch have shared similar views on the GTM trial with Lisa Singh advocating for pill testing. Senator Singh’s view – that pill testing be offered as part of the harm minimisation measures at festivals since saving lives is the primary message.
Zero tolerance vs education
Another Australian festival urging the need for pill testing is Victoria’s Rainbow Serpent Festival. In a video message organiser, Tim Harvey, said that, “Changing your mind costs less than a human life”. This only further cements that by doing nothing, we will see no improvement, only more deaths along with the death of live Australian music. Harvey goes on further stating that the zero tolerance ban on drugs is not stopping kids from taking drugs, but it is making them more afraid to seek help when something does go wrong – a step backwards it seems.
Doubling sniffer dogs and police officers is not going to improve the safety of someone overdosing. More education around illicit drugs and easier access to help in an emergency situation is when safety begins to improve.
What’s your view?
Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts on pill testing and the new festival regulations.