The peak body for community sector groups providing substance misuse services in Tasmania has called for an advisory committee to investigate options for a pill testing trial in the state, “strongly” opposing the government’s view it would encourage drug use.
The calls come after Party in the Paddock organisers last week said they hoped to have pill testing on site in 2020 – an idea since shut down by Health and Police Minister Michael Ferguson.
Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania chief executive Alison Lai said zero tolerance “cannot continue to be the only approach”.
“The ATDC calls for the convening of an advisory committee of relevant stakeholders and experts to investigate options for trialing pill testing at Tasmania’s music festivals and events,” Ms Lai told The Examiner.
The council is also working with Pill Testing Australia – plus a range of Tasmanian organisations and festival organisers – on the model for a trial within the state.
Last month, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians urged state leaders to consult with experts to establish trials.
Responding to Ms Lai’s calls, Mr Ferguson said there was “no safe use of any illicit drug” and it was “reckless” to suggest otherwise. “The idea that a testing service can indicate that an illegal drug is free of certain contaminants sends a very mixed and risky message.”
Ms Lai said the council “strongly opposes” the view that pill testing gives the impression of condoning or encouraging illicit drug use.
Staff at pill testing stations are qualified health professionals who do not endorse drug use or promote them as safe, Ms Lai said, but give information about the risks in a “non-judgmental safe environment”.