ACT Greens leader and spokesperson for drug law reform Shane Rattenbury, is rallying support for the nation’s first pill-testing trial at this month’s Groovin the Moo festival at the University of Canberra by urging community groups and individuals to sign an open letter to the festival promoter, which has not yet given its support.
Mr Rattenbury has told community groups, artists, and festival organisers Cattleyard Promotions, that Groovin The Moo festival on 29 April provides an opportunity to lead the festival industry with an evidence-based harm minimisation approach to drug use.
“I know many of you have worked tirelessly over many years to get us to this point by advocating and lending your support for pill testing in Australia,” he wrote.
“Here in the ACT, we are so close to getting this trial off the ground, with support from ACT Health, ACT Policing, the ACT Government and the availability of laboratory grade equipment with a non-government consortium willing to run it. The proponents have also undertaken an extensive risk assessment process and are informed by expert advice,” he said.
But the one barrier remaining was that the promoter, Cattleyard Promotions, had not given its support to the trial and this could prevent it from going ahead.
“With the festival only a few weeks away, we are making one last push to get the promoter’s support for pill testing at this year’s festival,” he said.
“Attached is an open letter to the promoter which outlines why this initiative is so important. I’m asking you to add your name as a signatory so that the promoter can see that there is broad support for pill testing across the health, community and music industries.”
Mr Rattenbury’s appeal has gone to drug law reform experts, health service providers, community organisations and peak bodies in the ACT, as well as artists who are scheduled to play at Groovin The Moo.
“Together I think we can send a strong message to the promoter that their support for pill testing can help ensure young people have a good time and come home safe from this year’s event,” he said.
In his letter to the promoter, Mr Rattenbury urged Cattleyard Promotions to support this important public health initiative, and potentially save lives at this year’s event.
He said that for too long, young people have been at risk from unknown and contaminated drugs, with some being hospitalised, or worse, at clubs and music festivals.
“Pill testing has been shown to be effective when it has been introduced overseas. Research shows that pill-testing helps young people avoid the dangers of unknown and contaminated drugs, and provides an opportunity for drugs to be disposed of before lives are put at risk,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“Informed by advice from experts and using laboratory grade equipment, a pill testing trial at your festival has the support of ACT Health and ACT Policing, and the ACT Government has given its support after an extensive risk assessment process and receipt of the relevant legal advice.”
Pill testing could help identify contaminated substances, provide an opportunity for health and drug education to an at-risk population, increase awareness of circulating harmful substances and allow for the use of early warning systems to keep young people informed about what they are taking, Mr Rattenbury said.
He said that a recent survey of young Australians showed more than 85 per cent of respondents supported free on-site pill testing being available, and more than 80 per cent believed that it would help drug users seek help to reduce harm.
“Allowing pill testing at Grooving The Moo Canberra 2018 will help make the festival safer for those who attend, allowing them to have a great day out and come home safe,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The open letter can be found here.