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Byron Shire
December 9, 2021

Call for candidates to take a stand on pill testing

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Political parties are divided over pill testing, with only the Greens categorically in support.

Local candidates for the next state election must be willing to break from party lines on the issue of pill testing in the interests of saving the lives of local young people, local youth workers say.

With yet another drug-related death at a festival over the New Year period, and a record number of illicit drug detections at the Byron Bay Falls Festival, pressure is mounting on our political aspirants to take a stand.  

‘I think it’s time for some of our local politicians to step outside of party policy and have a look at what’s needed in their own electorate, their own community,’ local youth worker Nicqui Yazdi said.

‘They need to ask themselves the question, “If I had a child who was going to a festival next week and possibly taking drugs, would I like them to have the opportunity to have those drugs tested, or not?”.’

Ms Yazdi, who was part of a select group of Australians to undertake a special training course in pill testing late last year, said the issue was more pressing in Byron Bay than anywhere else in the state.

Party town

‘We’re this massive tourist destination with a party town in the middle of it and with that comes huge consumption of alcohol and other drugs,’ she said.

‘We need pill testing now.’

With less than 100 days until locals go to the polls, only incumbent Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) has unequivocally supported the introduction of pill testing at music festivals.

‘I’ve been talking about pill testing since my early teens and the need for it is greater now than ever,’ Ms Smith said.

‘Do we need another summit on pill testing? No, we already know from the experience of other countries that it works. We need to introduce it now.’

One of Ms Smith’s main rivals for Ballina, Ben Franklin of the Nationals, declined to comment when asked by The Echo to state his personal opinion on pill testing.

The National Party is officially opposed to the practice, with its leader in NSW, John Barilaro, recently saying that pill testing was akin to aiding drug dealers ‘by endorsing the product they’re pushing’.

Greens MP, Labor candidate supportive

Labor’s candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh, told The Echo that he supported a pill-testing trial in NSW, but only after ‘bringing the experts together to discuss what such a trial would look like’.

This included a discussion about what role police would have in relation to the trial, and what kind of testing regime would be employed.

Another local who works with young people, Ritamba Allen, acknowledged that the process of introducing pill testing would take time, but said there was already strong evidence that it worked.

‘It’s pretty well proven as a form of harm reduction,’ said Ms Allen, who has just returned from conducting pill testing at a festival in New Zealand.

‘In a festival situation it’s a last line of defence. They have bought the drugs, they’ve smuggled them into the festival, and they’re about to put them into their mouths and then they go “oh, I’ll just take them down to the testing place.”

‘It’s not encouraging drug use; it’s for people who’ve already made the decision to take them so they can get a better idea of what they’re about to take.’

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  1. Prohibition and heavy sentences dont work. People need to be able to make informed decisions. If someone offers you what they say is MDMA or LSD and if you’ve had a good experiences of MDMA or LSD in the past so some may try it yet it may be laced with all sorts of nasties that can kill you. having the option to test it for deadly substances doesn’t mean anyone is saying take pills is saying be informed of what you are putting in your body. I have a good relationship with my kids and I talk to them about not taking unknown pills yet not all parents have that level of communication. And some kids and adults just wanna get high. I am discerning yet many are not. As a parent of kids who go to festivals I would be happier knowing that if they decided to take a pill and let’s face it we have all made bad decisions in our lives that that they had the option to test if their pill that someone said was pure mdma had a poison in it. And that I didn’t get a call a 2 am saying you child is now dead.

  2. Will pill testing test the complete pill and certify that all the fillers are also safe ? If a tested pill then causes illness or worse can we sue the pill testers for negligence?

  3. Greens candidate for Tweed Bill Fenelon stands with Greens MP Tamara Smith in unequivocally supporting the introduction of pill testing at music festivals.

    The task of Greens drug policy is to minimise the harm from drug use, including to ensure that where use occurs, it is as safe as possible and to make users fully aware of the possible adverse effects. The so-called ‘War on Drugs’, with its emphasis on prohibition and ‘law and order’ policies, has manifestly failed to reduce the harmful use of drugs and associated social impacts.

    Alternatives to prohibition for drug policy have been successfully trialed and legislated internationally. In practice, drug prohibition leads to the development of unregulated black markets that encourage the growth of corruption and organised crime. Therefore, the use and possession of quantities of all drugs for personal use should be treated as a health and social issue and not as a matter of law enforcement.


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