Party in the Paddock organisers this week shared their hopes to have pill testing on site in 2020 – since shut down by Health Minister Michael Ferguson – in the latest call for a service that has the backing of much of the Australian medical industry.
Pill testing has been in focus around Australia again this festival season following the deaths of six people from suspected drug overdoses at festivals in New South Wales in recent months – one of which prompted Falls Festival organisers to issue a warning on its Facebook page.
Health Minister Michel Ferguson yesterday called the practice “reckless” and said there were “serious” concerns about loss of life as a result of people taking pills that they believe to be safe, adding that families who had lost loved ones were calling on governments to reject testing for this reason.
“The idea that a testing service can indicate that an illegal drug is free of certain contaminants sends a very mixed and risky message,” he said.
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Premier Will Hodgman has also previously rejected the idea.
The Tasmanian government’s response is a common criticism, however the Australian medical community broadly suggests that zero tolerance policies are not working.
Last month the Royal Australasian College of Physicians wrote to Mr Hodgman – and all state and territory leaders – urging them follow the ACT Government’s lead in consulting with medical experts to establish pill testing trials.
Both the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners have also backed pill testing trials.
Emergency doctor David Caldicott worked on Australia’s first successful pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo in Canberra last year and was critical of Mr Hodgman’s refusal.
Dr Caldicott says the system could be set up at festivals in Tasmania “within a fortnight” and has urged opponents to participate in a public debate with him about its merits.
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