Pill-testing will be trialled in Australia for the first time after the green light was given for this weekend’s Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra.
The ABC understands festival promoter Cattleyard gave the pill-testing trial the final tick of approval after weeks of stalemate with the ACT Government, police and health officials.
Under the trial festival-goers will be able to have their illegal drugs tested for chemicals by independent group STA-SAFE.
The University of Canberra (UC) – where the music festival is being held – confirmed its support last month but the final approval comes just days out from the festival on Sunday.
Last November an ACT government-approved trial was scuttled in the weeks leading up to the Spilt Milk festival, resulting in revellers turning to do-it-yourself kits.
That festival was held on Commonwealth land and required a license from the National Capital Authority.
Festival organisers cited issues with documentation as reasons to pull out of the trial, but there were also allegations of pressure being applied to the promotor.
Prior to the festival ACT Shadow Attorney-General Jeremy Hanson wrote to the then-minister for local government Fiona Nash and Health Minister Greg Hunt expressing his concern about a pill-testing trial taking place on Commonwealth land.
There is no evidence that letter had any influence on the outcome of the trial.
The Groovin the Moo trial comes after years of lobbying by pill-testing advocates and months of negotiations with officials.
Festival-goers will remain anonymous
Festival-goers who utilise pill-testing will be informed which chemicals are in the drugs and given any information on known side-effects of taking them.
Party-goers will remain anonymous but consortium STA-SAFE will collect information about their drug habits to feed to authorities to help formulate policy.
No law changes are required to carry out the trial.
ACT Health describes pill-testing as a harm reduction measure, that helps takers avoid taking unknown and potentially dangerous substances often found in illicit drugs.
Pill-testing is already undertaken in about 20 countries in Europe, the Americas and New Zealand.
Health experts say evidence from overseas showed young people were less likely to consume drugs once they knew what was in them.