NSW police minister says pill-testers could be charged with manslaughter

The drug experts who pledged to bring pill-testing to Australian festivals “to save lives” could be charged with manslaughter, says NSW Police Minister and Deputy Premier Troy Grant.

Grant has today said that Dr Alex Wodak and emergency medical specialist David Caldicott will be putting themselves in “legal jeopardy” if they go ahead with pill-testing trials, and could be arrested for anything from possession and supply of illegal drugs to more serious charges. “If these [tested] pills go wrong and kill someone, they may well be vulnerable to manslaughter charges,” he said.

Grant’s claims were part of an amazing rant on talkback radio station 2UE this morning, that touched on everything from pill-testing and the law to The Trouble With Young People Today, with their internet, mobile phones and video games.

In the 15-minute chat, Grant conflated ecstasy users with ice addicts, claimed that people take MDMA to “fill a void in their lives”, and said that drug use is already being classified as a health issue in Australia (“there’s been $1 million spent [on treatment] in my local area,” Grant said – against the $1.2 billion spent nationally each year on policing and investigating drugs).

The trouble, according to Grant, is Young People. “The generation we have now,” Grant said, “‘Generation Me’ I think they’re calling it, they’re desensitized but they’re also cavalier, and I think it stems from, in their life, they’re able to hit the refresh button on the internet or their phones; playing video games there’s a reset button once they’ve crashed the car or shot all the people.

“In life, there is no reset button: you take a pill, it kills you, it harms you irreversibly – you can’t hit a reset button on life… We have to be vigilant on that message that you cannot take these things [pills] without significant risk.”

As for the clandestine pill-testing trials proposed by Dr Wodak and Dr Caldicott, Grant remains unmoved from his zero-tolerance position. “We’re open to ideas,” Grant said, “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.

“They [Dr Wodak and Dr Caldicott] can’t thumb their nose at the law… They have the right to an opinion about this and to look at other remedies, but this is one remedy that we won’t accept… Let’s not forget first principles, these things are an illegal drug, and while they’re illegal, we won’t be copping this campaign.”

The flaw in Grant’s argument, as harm reduction activist Johnboy Davidson told inthemix last year, is that NSW already has a program in place where police look the other way while drug users are allowed to safely take drugs: the medically supervised injecting rooms.

All that’s needed for pill-testing to work in NSW is the same kind of agreement to allow the doctors “to do their work without the fear of having their careers burnt to the ground”. But as Troy Grant keeps telling us, that “will not happen in NSW while [he’s] the police minister”. Listen to the full interview with 2UE below.