The case for implementing pill testing at Australian music festivals is continuing to gain momentum, with the organisers of Stereosonic declaring their support for the initiative on Wednesday.
In a statement issued to the Sydney Morning Herald, Totem OneLove Group offered its full support to pill testing “as long as all the key stakeholders sanctioned the initiative to ensure its effectiveness.”
“We would strongly support any policies or initiatives that would minimise harm, reduce drug use and make events a safer environment for patrons,” the statement read.
“Unfortunately drug use is an issue effecting all Australians and is not limited to events.”
Last year Stereosonic was held in five capital cities across two weekends in November and December, with tragedy striking on both.
On its first weekend in Sydney, 25-year-old pharmacist Sylvia Choi died from a suspected drug overdose after taking ecstasy, while 19-year-old Stefan Woodward died a week later when the festival made its way to Adelaide.
The statement comes after an announcement last week by the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation’s Dr Alex Wodak and emergency medicine specialist David Caldicott of a privately funded drug testing trial at NSW festivals that will commence with or without the consent of the government.
Appearing on Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday morning, NSW Premier Mike Baird upheld the government’s opposition to pill testing, maintaining a hard-line approach to illicit drug use.
“We’re not going to be putting taxpayer funded dollars to be supporting illegal drug dealers,” he said.
“We understand the tragedy that’s here but the simple message we have -- and we encourage parents to give and the whole community to give -- is just don’t take these pills.”
However, whether the government likes it or not, Australians are illicit drug users, with our nation home to the highest rate of ecstasy consumption on earth, according to the 2014 United Nations World Drug Report.
In addition to this, in 2015, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported 27 percent of Australians aged 20-29 had used illicit drugs in the preceding 12 months, with eight percent having used ecstasy in that period.
Baird conceded that tragedies relating to drug use are occurring frequently but demonstrated that he was unwilling to change his stance on the issue.
“They’re tragic stories and it’s not just something that happens every now and then, it happens too regularly,” he said.
“It is laced in absolute tragedy for those families, their friends, the communities involved -- don’t do it. I mean that is the best form of safety you can do, don’t take the pills and you’ll be fine.”
A NSW Police spokesperson told The Huffington Post Australia that police will continue to enforce the law at music festivals with regard to the illegal supply and possession of illegal substances.
After the death of Choi last year, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione rejected calls for the implementation of a pill testing regime.
“There are many that continue to this day to call for less police interaction, fewer drug dogs, in fact, no drug dogs, fewer police at these events,” he said to the ABC in November.
“That will never happen.”