The Liberal Government Refuse to Consider Pill Testing as a Means of Harm Reduction Despite More Deaths at Music Festivals in NSW

 

About four hundred Australians die as a result of illicit drugs.

There are many who are victims of drug addiction and its associated health problems in Australia.

The indirect victims include the family members who are realising the increasing temptation for young people to experiment with illicit drugs, especially in music festivals.

A 25-year-old pharmacist from Sydney, Sylvia Choi overdosed and died from ecstasy at a music festival in November 2015.

In February 2018, there was allegedly a large drug overdose in the Gold Coast where 7 boys aged between 14-15 years were rushed to hospital.

It appears clear that experimenting in illicit drugs in our nation over time has now become integrated into the leisure and cultural consumption habits of the youth.

This is consistent with the United Nation’s 2014 World Drug Report, which outlines Australia having the highest proportion of recreational drug use on earth, from which the highest rates of drug use and drug related persecution in any age group is found in the nations youth.

It is fair to say, that we won’t be able to stop Australia’s youth from experimenting with drugs.

However, we as a nation do have a responsibility to protect our youth, which can be done by introducing a way to educate the youth as to the dangers of illicit drugs before they decide to consume them.

Our nation is currently focused on spending our tax money on law enforcement to control our youth from experimenting with drugs. Yet, as time has demonstrated repeatedly, this approach has failed.

There needs to be a new approach, and pill testing can be the answer.

Recent Death from Music Festival

Recently a teenager died while sixteen other people were taken to hospital as a result of suspicious drug overdoses at a Sydney music festival held on Saturday 8 December 2018.

Amongst those was 19-year-old Callum Brosnan, from Baulkham Hills who died at about 4:30am after he was found at the Sydney Olympic Park train station.

According to police, thirteen others were taken to hospital, while one hundred and thirty were medically treated at the music festival.

South West Metropolitan Region Commander Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell was reported saying, “Drug suppliers will do anything to make money.. it’s obvious they [drugs] are just not safe. Many young people aren’t getting the message… that these drugs aren’t safe and there’s no safe limit.. [There was] a large policing operation -over 130 police, 140 security staff plus medical staff- the attempts to stop people taking drugs were significant. Obviously, people who are determined to get their drugs in one way or another, will find a way.”

An 18-year-old woman was allegedly found with 390 capsules of MDMA. She was arrested and charged with drug supply.

A 25-year-old, Jonathon Carey-Spence was reportedly caught with 145 MDMA capsules. He was also charged with supplying drugs.

SniffOff, an anti-sniffer dog organisation was reportedly “devastated” about the young teenager’s death.

SniffOff have criticised police for denying entry to people who were not even found with drugs at the event.

“how many more young people have to die before Gladys and her Liberal cronies realise aggressive over policing is not the answer?”.

Ms. Gladys Berejiklian and her Liberal Government refuse to consider pill testing as a way to reduce the harm at music festivals.

She said, anyone who advocates pill-testing is giving the green light to drugs. There is no such thing as a safe drug and unfortunately when young people think there is, it has tragic consequences.

Pill Testing

Pill testing is where the substance an individual intends to consume can be checked for harmful ingredients at a music festival.

This can be done in an environment without the fear of facing criminal prosecution in the public interest of harm reduction.

In a first-ever trial, pill testing was a success at the ‘Groovin’ The Moo music festival in Canberra in 2018. 2 lethal substances linked to overdoses in NZ and Europe were found during the trial. 1 of those substances were previously not known to be available in the ACT. It allowed health authorities to be better prepared.

43% of people who attended the festival said that pill testing will likely change their behaviour to taking illicit drugs.

While Ms. Berejiklian believes that pill testing encourages drug use, there is absolutely no evidence to back this up. Europe and the UK have been pill testing for years with no evidence to demonstrate that its increased illicit drug use.

Drug Supply Offences in NSW

You will be guilty of supplying prohibited drugs if you supply or take part in supplying a prohibited drug.

The law interprets “supply” as giving the substance to another person, whether or not it was for a financial benefit.

It includes, agreeing to supply, sell, offer to supply, hold for the purpose of supply, send or deliver, distribute, receiving the drug for the purpose of supplying it later.

You can be guilty of supply prohibited drugs where you were not actually supplying the substance. This can occur if you were caught with possession of a ‘traffickable’ quantity of the drug. The common defence for this required the defence to prove on the balance of probabilities that he/she had it in his/her possession for a reason other than to supply.

A person can also be guilty of supplying prohibited drugs in circumstances the substance is not actually a prohibited drug, but where the person accused passes it off as such to another person.

‘taking part’ in the supply of prohibited drugs include, providing premises from where the process of supplying takes place, or arranging or provided money for the supply, or taking steps to cause the process of the supply.

As to the defences of drug supply offences, see defences for supplying drugs in NSW.

The table below outlines the maximum penalties for supplying drugs based on the quantity of the drugs:

Quantity If Local Court If District Court
Not more than Small Quantity  

2 years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine

15 years imprisonment or $220,000 fine
More than Small Quantity but less than Indictable Quantity 2 years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine 15 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine
More than Indictable Quantity but less than Commercial Quantity 2 years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine 15 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine
Commercial Quantity or more, but less than Large Commercial Quantity Cannot be dealt with in Local Court 20 years imprisonment and/or $385,000 fine
Large Commercial Quantity or more Cannot be dealt with in Local Court Life imprisonment and/or $550,000 fine

The below table outlines the weights and categories of various prohibited drugs:

Prohibited Plant/Drug Small Quantity Trafficable Quantity Indictable Quantity Commercial Quantity Large Commercial Quantity
Amphetamine 1 g 3.0 g 5 g 250.0 g 1 kg
Cannabis Leaf 30 g 300 g 1000 g 25.0 g 100 g
Cannabis Oil 2 g 5 g 10 g 500.0 g 2 kg
Cannabis Resin 5 g 30 g 90 g 2.5 Kg 10 Kg
Cocaine 1 g 3 g 5 g 250.0 g 1 Kg
Heroin 1 g 3 g 5 g 250.0 g 1 Kg
Lysergic acid 0.0008 g 0.003 g 0.005 g 0.5 g 2 g
Methylamphetamine 1 g 3 g 5 g 250 g 1 Kg
MDMA/Ecstasy 0.25 g 0.75 g 1.25 g 125 g 500g

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Australia's Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Courts.

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