Pill testing proposed in Tassie

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New legislation has been tabled by the Greens in parliament to allow for drug-testing services in the state

Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff tabled the Misuse of Drugs Amendment (Drug Analysis) Bill 2018 on Thursday to provide legal protections for services offering pill testing.

“We are building on the experience and evidence from countries around the world to introduce a safe, legal framework for drug analysis in Tasmania,” Dr Woodruff told Tasmanian media.

“We just understand this is about keeping Tasmanians safer. Really, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t we want to do everything we can to make sure that people aren’t putting dangerous, life-threatening things into their bodies?”

Interest groups are divided on the issue.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) gave its support to the Tasmanian Greens’ bill.

“Year after year there are deaths and serious harm at music festivals and pill testing will help minimise this,” said ALA spokesperson and barrister Greg Barns.

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these festivals are safe and we know that pill testing will save lives.”

Mr Barns referred to the ACT pill testing exercise earlier this year which he said was “very successful,” and alluded to Europe which has been conducting pill testing for more than 25 years.

“The Falls Festival is coming up and every year 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.”

Pill testing facilities at festivals is supported by many health and medical organisations including the Australian Medical Association.

“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 prevent this through pill testing,” said Mr Barns.

“The Greens’ proposed Bill provides the regulations and strategies we need to help ensure safety, and to address the issues around drug use in our community.”

However the Police Association of Tasmania stated its opposition to proposed pill testing.

“Selling, trafficking or using illicit substances is still against the law,” said Acting President Gavin Cashion.

“Harm minimisation is one thing and there is a lot being done in that space regarding education and media.

“But to support pill testing is opinion sending the wrong message by saying it’s okay to break the law,” said Mr Cashion.

“Pill testing is effectively ‘doing quality assurance for drug pushers’. People have a choice – to take drugs or not take drugs.”

Mr Cashion said there is sufficient research available and people who are deciding on the direction of this should avail themselves of it.

“Pill testing is not an exact science. There is no place in society for substances that are manufactured in back yards and kitchens being sold to children or young adults regardless of their purity.”

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