AMA Tasmania pushes for our own pill testing trials

FALLS: A past Falls Festival crowd. Organisers in 2017 supported pill testing at the festival, however the state government did not. Picture: Brodie Weeding
FALLS: A past Falls Festival crowd. Organisers in 2017 supported pill testing at the festival, however the state government did not. Picture: Brodie Weeding

Pill testing should be trialled in Tasmania, according to a peak health body. 

The Australian Medical Association Tasmanian president Stuart Day said a number of harm minimisation policies are needed when it comes to illicit drugs, including “needle exchanges, pill testing, and degrees of decriminalisation for some drugs”. 

“Pill testing provides an opportunity for early intervention, an appropriately trained professional talking to festival goers and providing them with information about what they are taking,” he said. “The model that has been used overseas, and will likely be trialled in Australia, means that people have access to a doctor in a tent with other clinicians, chemists, counsellors and peer educators.”

Mr Day’s comments come after the first Australian example of pill testing at a major festival on Saturday. 

Groovin the Moo in Canberra hosted a tent for revelers to test their drugs for potentially harmful substances.

Out of the 85 tests done, two samples were found to contain the potentially lethal ephylone, which has been responsible for overdoses internationally. 

Those samples were binned by the people who owned them. 

We will not act as quality control agents for drug traffickers who destroy lives and families.

Police Minister Michael Ferguson

Police Minister Michael Ferguson quashed suggestions that similar provisions should be available in Tasmania. 

“We will not act as quality control agents for drug traffickers who destroy lives and families,” he said.  “We have a range of initiatives to crack down on those who push dangerous drugs, as well as services to provide support for those who need help in beating their addiction.”

Liberal Tasmanian senator David Bushby and Labor Tasmanian senator Lisa Singh went to Portugal to compile a Senate report on drug policy reform last year. 

While Ms Singh said she supported pill testing, Mr Bushby said Tasmania should “avoid an implied endorsement of drug use through pill testing”. 

Mr Bushby suggested penalties for possession of small quantities of drugs should be reformed.