Three Australian drug experts have vowed to introduce testing at festivals despite the risk of mass arrests.
As Fairfax Media have reported, three drug reform proponents—Unharm founder Will Tregoning, President of the Australian Drug Reform Foundation Alex Wodak and emergency medical specialist Dr David Caldicott—will be working towards introducing the controversial measures to large dance music events around the state. Wodak told the Sydney Morning Herald that "the idea is to save lives. I am prepared to break the law to save young people's lives." They plan to roll out testing trials at selected events by the end of the year, and are anticipating that mass arrests may be part of the process. "It's very straight forward," Dr Caldicott said. "We want to run a trial at a place where everyone is using drugs anyway. It's time for our politicians and elected representatives to catch up with what the majority of parents want for their children, which is for them to return home safe."
NSW Premier Mike Baird has called the proposal "absolutely ridiculous," saying that "we're not going to be condoning in any way what illegal drug dealers are doing and that's what this is about so we're certainly not supporting it." Deputy Premier Troy Grant has also joined his colleagues in condemning the trial, calling it a "very dangerous regime that the NSW government fundamentally rejects."
Tregoning indicated that testing would take place inside a van shielded from police by supporters of the program. These supporters, he says, will risk being arrested on the grounds of civil disobedience by trying to protect users of the service from being identified and prosecuted themselves. "If people are in possession of substances that place them at a really high risk, we want them to throw them away and the best way to do that is to provide them with information," he says. "As long as government continues to stand in the way of this service they are making it more likely that people will die."
The debate surrounding pill testing in Australia reignited over summer. A number of widely publicised drug overdose incidents occurred over the festival season, including two tragic deaths at Stereosonic. Organisers of the nationwide event have since announced their "full support" of the trial program, "as long as all the key stakeholders sanctioned the initiative to ensure its effectiveness." Luis-Manuel Garcia explained and explored the controversial subject of pill testing in his feature on drugs policies and electronic music culture back in January.