Lawyers call on NSW Government to support pill-testing: current policies are failing

23rd Jan 2019

Criminal and law enforcement responses to the use of illicit drugs at music festivals are failing, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today in a letter sent to the NSW Premier calling for the implementation of pill testing trials.

“The reality is that young people will experiment with drugs and they are being needlessly exposed to death or physical and mental harm when we have the ability to decrease this risk through pill testing,” said Ms Ngaire Watson, barrister and medical law spokesperson for the ALA.

“Our priority must be to avoid deaths and minimise harm.  This is a health problem not a legal problem, and the main focus of legal strategies should be to encourage positive health outcomes.”

The ALA supports the Royal Australian College of Physician’s (RACP) position that pill testing within these trials should be conducted in purpose-designed facilities by appropriately qualified technical specialists and should be accompanied by advice and information to allow festival goers to make informed choices.

“These facilities also offer an opportunity for medical professionals to provide advice to young people about the risks of drug taking,” said Ms Watson.

Criminal justice spokesperson for the ALA, Greg Barns added that government and festival organisers have a duty to ensure a safe environment for patrons.

“Simply saying no to drugs does not work and the government should listen to health experts, not police, on this issue,” said Mr Barns.  “The ACT pill testing exercise last year was very successful and, of course, in Europe they allow testing.

“At every festival 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.”

Tags: drugs Medical law