The ACT Government has rejected pill-testing at Groovin The Moo Canberra

A proposal to conduct pill-testing at next month’s Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra has been rejected by the ACT government.

A spokesperson for the government stated the decision was made after “careful consideration”, noting the trial would have taken a “significant amount of work” and simply wouldn’t be possible in 2017. Speaking on ABC Radio, Chief Minister Andrew Barr added that the proposal – put forward by Harm Reduction Australia – was not “well enough formed’.

The government has been roundly slammed for the rejection, with health professionals lining up to dispute the allegation that the proposal wasn’t thorough enough.

“It was so minutely detailed that the minister’s office had the opportunity to ask ‘what uniforms would those conducting the pill testing be wearing?’ If there were issues they wanted to discuss they would quite easily have raised them’,” ANU senior clinical lecturer and emergency physician Dr David Caldicott told the Canberra TimesHe also added they had been in talks with the government about the trial since January.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the outcome.

“In the background we’ve got a group of health experts, with the right equipment, ready to provide a service free of charge to government, we cannot afford to pass up these kinds of opportunities to roll out proven evidence-based harm minimisation measures,” he said.

Chief Minister Barr stated he was not opposed to pill-testing, but asserted that the government was never just going to “stamp your pill and say it’s safe”.

“I need to be clear, the government is never going to endorse the taking of illegal drugs but we also have responsibilities around harm minimisation,” Barr said. “This needs to be an evidence-based, public health decision not a Facebook petition.”

Over the summer of 2015/16, Australia’s festival scene was hit with a string of tragic deaths at festivals from suspected drug overdoses, reigniting the debate around pill-testing at festivals. It looked likely that trials would occur over the latest summer season, but nothing eventuated. Recently, more than 20 people overdosed at Melbourne’s Electric Parade festival.

The NSW government remains fiercely opposed to the initiative, with Police Minister Troy Grant saying last year that pill-testers could be charged with manslaughter.

“We’re open to ideas,” Grant said at the time, “but not to running a pill-testing regime…because there’s no way we’re gonna run a quality assurance program for drug dealers – they’re illegal.”

Lead image: What’s In My Baggy