This weekend, Australia will see it’s first trial of pill testing at a festival. Groovin The Moo promoters Cattleyard confirmed the Canberra stop of the festival has been given approval to trial pill testing.

This comes after weeks of talks between state government, police, health officials and the promoters themselves. Originally the festival promoters had a series of demands that could not be agreed upon under ACT law.

This prompted Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris to plead with the promoters; “reconsider the potential impact of drug taking on a young life … and the role pill-testing at this event could play to protect young people from such harm”.

Under the trial, festival-goers will be able to have their illegal drugs tested for chemicals by independent group STA-SAFE. Health experts have said that after finding out what was in their drugs, young people were less likely to use them.

What will the testing do?

Anyone who uses the pill-testing opportunities will be told what is in their drugs and the known side effects. STA-SAFE will collect information regarding the festival goers drug use to inform authorities, however everyone who uses the service will remain anonymous.

Various drugs

This last minute decision to trial pill testing at the Canberra festival comes after a similar initiative was cancelled last minute before Spilt Milk 2017 – also held in the ACT. It is still unclear why pill testing was pulled from the popular festival.

Why promote pill testing?

The ACT government has said the trial does not condone illicit drug use, but rather promotes safety. This initiative also aims to “provide an opportunity to encourage people who are considering using illicit drugs to modify their behaviour in ways that reduce risks of harm to their health,” Ms Fitzharris said.

Pill testing is already being used around the world with at least 20 countries having trialled it. Studies have shown that the pill testing did have an effect on drug use at the festivals it’s been offered at.

After years of lobbying and negotiations with officials, this a big step towards drug safety in festivals across Australia. Dependant on the information gathered at Groovin The Moo this weekend, there are hopes that pill testing will become a common part of festival culture in Australia.

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