Groovin the Moo (GTM) kicked off this weekend, beginning in South Australia on Friday, hitting Maitland Showground on Saturday and playing in Canberra yesterday.
While festival goers enjoyed the same line-up across all three states, those with drugs in their possession were treated very differently depending on which state’s festival they attended.
Canberra embraces pill testing
Pill testing was offered at GTM Canberra, with 35 health professionals and volunteers on hand at the festival.
More than 230 people accessed the pill testing facility at yesterday’s festival, with 171 substances tested.
Of the 171 pills that were tested, 7 were identified as containing n-ethylpentylone, a potentially deadly substance. All 7 of these pills were voluntarily discarded in the amnesty bins provided.
GTM Canberra hosted Australia’s first pill testing trial in 2018. The trial was praised for its success, with 129 people utilising the service.
Of the 129 people who accessed the pill testing facilities, 42% consumed a different quantity of substance than what they had originally intended, and 18% discarded their drugs in the amnesty bin provided.
The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia to allow pill testing.
NSW continues its ‘just say no’ policy
NSW has ramped up its licencing restrictions for music festivals in NSW.
Under the new licencing, festival goers believed to be under the influence of drugs, or who were found with drugs in their possession at GTM Maitland were either refused entry or removed from the venue.
Previously, festival goers caught in possession of illicit substances were issued with court attendance notices and allowed to enter or remain at the venue.
More than 140 uniformed and plain-clothed police officers patrolled the GTM Maitland.
Despite the police presence, 15 people were taken to hospital for drug-related issues.
Among those transported to the hospital was an eighteen-year-old in critical condition, believed to have overdosed on MDMA.
How does pill testing work?
There is a common misconception that pill testing has the potential to give the ‘green light’ to take a substance that may end up causing harm.
However, this simply isn’t the case.
Festival goers are never told that the substance being tested is ‘safe’.
Instead, the substance is categorised as either:
- White – this means that the substance tested is what was anticipated.
- Yellow – this means the substance is not what the person believed it to be.
- Red – this means that the substance is known to be associated with harm, overdose or death; or the substance is unknown (ie a new drug).
You can read more about the pill testing process here.
The pill testing debate
The pill testing debate is politically charged in Australia.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr gave the go ahead for GTM Canberra’s pill testing.
He released a statement on Twitter outlining that ‘governments have a responsibility to not only try and prevent drug use but also to support initiatives that reduce the harms associated with drug use’.
His perspective is a stark contrast to the much-maligned approach of NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian, who has consistently ruled out trialling the idea in NSW.