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Even the ACT Health Minister Wants to Legalise Drug Testing at Festivals

After Canberra's successful pill testing trial, even non-Greens politicians are onboard.

ACT Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Meegan Fitzharris, has endorsed a report released last week by the Safety and Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE). The report urges the government to implement pill testing across Australia as part of a new three-year harm minimisation plan.

Under the plan, pill-testing services as seen at Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra would be rolled out across the country. There, 128 festivalgoers approached the unmarked tent to have their drugs tested. A total of 85 samples were tested—finding that around 50 percent of those samples were mostly MDMA, while the other 50 percent were diluted with fillers such as lactose, sweeteners, and paint.

Meegan Fitzharris cited this event as proof that the Federal Government was focussing on an evidence-based responses to drug harm minimisation. "[We have a] track record for innovating in this area as shown by the successful introduction of Australia’s first pill testing trial,’’ she wrote. “This will assist to better understand how pill testing may help reduce the harms of illicit drug use at festivals and will inform next steps and future drug policy.”

The ACT’s Justice and Mental Health Minister, Shane Rattenbury, agreed with STA-SAFE, telling the Guardian, “I’d certainly encourage [consultation between states]…It’s always hardest to do these things the first time, and we’d be very happy to share the knowledge we gleaned from [the trial].”

But not everyone is impressed. Victorian Liberal Senator, Mitch Fifield, gave a stern "no" when asked about the Federal Government’s support to a national roll-out, “The best way to protect yourself against illicit substances is not too take them,” he told the Guardian. "I don't consider that the consumption of illegal drugs is something that is intrinsic to the performing arts or live music in the nation."

However, results from Groovin the Moo trial have overall been deemed an “overwhelming success,” with 42 percent of participants indicating that they would change their drug taking behaviour after being told what was in their drugs.