“Don’t do it. That’s how you stay safe.”
Sound familiar? If you were part of an “abstinence only” program regarding Sex Ed in the United States in the past decade, it should. And, of course, we’ve seen how effective that strategy is. Now, the same principles are being echoed in New South Wales about pill testing by premiere and deputy premiere Mike Baird and Troy Grant, respectively.
“It’s everybody’s individual responsibility not to take drugs and put a gun in their mouth or play Russian roulette with God knows what they are going to ingest,” Grant said after the hospitalisation of a 23-year-old woman at the Field Day festival.
“Don’t do it,” said NSW Premier Mike Baird. “That is the best form of safety you can do. Don’t take the pills and you’ll be fine.”
There are many problems with both their statements, but we’ll point out two glaring ones. In relation to Baird’s statement, it would be nice if people didn’t take pills, but they’re not going to stop – it’s going to continue. Turning a blind eye to that fact is negligent and more than a bit outdated.
With respect to Grant’s statement, he actually shoots himself in the foot a bit by saying a person will “play Russian roulette with God knows what they are going to ingest.” You see, that’s exactly what kind of unknown element pill testing is looking to take out of the equation.
We wrote about ER doctor David Caldicott as early as last November following the death of Sylvia Choi at Stereosonic Music Festival. His statement then remains just as applicable now: “‘Don’t use drugs’ is perfectly acceptable for primary school kids and the people who aren’t already using drugs,” he said. “But for this group of people, they’ve already decided to use drugs and we need to be far more nuanced in our approach to illicit drugs than we currently are.”
Thankfully, (most of) Australia is beginning to listen. According to VICE, Dr. Caldicott is “in talks with police and politicians around Australia, and will be introducing pill-testing trials at Australian music festivals within the next year.” Except NSW, that is.
When introducing pill testing to a new community, Europe, particularly Amsterdam or the Netherlands, are used as a prime example. “This is such a mundane thing now in Europe they actually have best practice guidelines,” said Caldicott. “It’s not as though we are inventing something really naughty.”
Most local police wouldn’t go on the record whether they supported pill testing or not. In the end, most arguments resolved in the fact that whether or not pill testing is approved, the substances being tested would still be illicit.
In that case, the issue of lawsuits comes up.
VICE writes, “Caldicott says this isn’t a concern. Any drugs being tested will be only handled by a forensic scientist, who is licensed to handle these substances.”
With all of the controversy and bad publicity surrounding Australian music festivals in the past year, not to mention the bad press that parts of Australia has brought on itself thanks to irrational lockout laws, this could be a large step in the right direction for cleaning up Australia’s music festival scene.