Drug disposal bins at music festivals are being touted as a way to reduce panic pill taking, drawing support from NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. Mr Fuller stated that “if there are smart strategies to protect kids, I’d be all for it”.
Festival attendees have been known to take multiple pills at once when confronted by police sniffer dogs, potentially leading to dangerous overdoses. This issue has been contentious, with Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame having suggested that drug sniffing dogs at festivals led to ‘double dosing and ‘panic ingestion’. The idea is to give revelers the chance to dump illegal drugs into an ‘Amnesty Bin’ before entering festival gates and facing the police and sniffer dogs. This concept has already been used at festivals in Europe Mr Fuller has stated that police would gladly respect those trying to use the bins.
The Commissioners approach to drug taking at festivals includes being the driving force behind ‘Criminal Infringement Notices’ and the $400 fine for possession of small amounts of drugs rather than charging young festival attendees with an offence.
His acceptance of reducing drug harm at music festivals does not however extend to support for pill testing. He agrees with NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian who has said that amnesty bins outside festivals were “a really good idea”. The Premier has however recently reiterated her opposition to pill testing, suggesting that it would “unintentionally [give] young people the green light that it’s OK to take the drug so long as you test them”. “What might be OK for one person taking a tablet could be lethal for another person”. Mr Fuller is likewise again testing, having stated that “I just find it hard to find any argument that pill testing is actually safe and will save lives”.
The variability in drug production is quoted by Mr Fuller as a reason that pill testing may not reduce drug deaths. Having spoken to NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant on the issue, Mr Fuller stated that the standards of testing should MDMA become legal would require “six to ten years testing against different heights and weights”. Whereas currently a tablet is “manufactured in someone’s garage by someone that probably doesn’t have a high school certificate” and that there was “no guarantee that the consistency of the left side of the tablet is the same as the right side of the tablet”. As such he has spoken out on the issues of pill testing providing “false confidence” and that “testing does not allow for adequate identification of dose levels or small traces of highly toxic substances”.
The Police Commissioner has also stated that a music festival at midnight was like a “war zone” and that pubs and clubs would not be allowed to operate in the same fashion. Mr Fuller said NSW Police remained committed to reducing harm by targeting supply networks and organised crime and through supporting harm minimisation strategies including education.