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Christie Eliezer Joined: 31st May 2011
Last seen: 11th January 2017

Stereosonic Supports Private Pill-Testing Plan

Christie Eliezer's picture
Christie Eliezer Joined: 31st May 2011
Last seen: 11th January 2017

Stereosonic is the first Australian festival to publically support plans by a number of NSW medical specialists and drug law reform advocates to start pill-testing at music festivals.

Promoter Totem Onelove said, “In principle pill testing would have our full support as long as all the key stakeholders sanctioned the initiative to ensure its effectiveness. We would strongly support any policies or initiatives that would minimise harm, reduce drug use and make events a safer environment for patrons. Unfortunately drug use is an issue effecting all Australians and is not limited to events.
 
“We would strongly support any policies or initiatives that would minimise harm, reduce drug use and make events a safer environment for patrons.'
 
Last week, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Dr Alex Wodak and emergency medical specialist Dr David Caldicott announced they were prepared to break the law by undertaking on-site pill-testing.
 
 Last summer was the most dangerous ever, with new pills coming on the market with content unknown. However the NSW government’s zero tolerance approach remained that cops, sniffer dogs and harsh court sentences would solve the problem. It refuses to hold pill-testing as it would be seen as endorsing the work of drug dealers.
 
There were two deaths at Stereosonic this summer, in Sydney in late November of 25-year old pharmacist Sylvia Choi and in December in Adelaide of 19-year old Stefan Woodward.
 
Stereosonic has a zero-tolerance policy to drugs on its website. In the wake of both deaths, it encouraged patrons to seek help from its staff. “Our First-Aid and general event staff are there to help you and not judge, if you or one of your friends are in trouble there will be no consequences for presenting to first aid. We encourage our patrons not to play Russian roulette with your lives.”
 
Twenty were treated for overdoses in Brisbane, and 120 treated for drug-related symptoms at the Sydney event.
 
Fuzzy co-founder John Wall (Field Day, Listen Out, Harbour Life) told ABC Radio that he would like pill testing at his events, but first needed to look into the legal consequences.
"We support encouraging people to think and take responsibility for what they're doing," he said.
 
The trials will depend on festival organisers agreeing for a pill-testing marquee to be set up on site. Patrons will be protected by anonymity. They provide a sample of their stash into a container. The process takes between 25 to 40 minutes, as a licensed forensic chemist runs a sample through a process called gas chromatography mass spectrometry. It identifies every chemical found in the sample, including unknown substances. If MDMA is detected, the same will be run through a second machine to determine dosage.
 
Tests at each festival will cost an average of $100,000. The group is sourcing from private donations and an online campaign.
 
It is not known whether the tests will come down to Victoria, where drug overdoses were also a problem this summer. Dr Wodak said that anecdotal evidence of tests in Europe saw festival patrons throw away their drugs once it was discovered they contained toxic substances.

For more industry news visit Christie Eliezer's Industrial Strength column.