Rave overdoses build urgent case for pill testing in Victoria

Australian Greens

Three progressive cross-bench parties have renewed their calls on the Victorian Labor Government to establish pill testing across the state, following reports of multiple overdoses at a Flemington rave over the weekend.

The Victorian Greens, the Animal Justice Party, and Legalise Cannabis Victoria currently have a bill before Parliament that would establish pill testing in time for the 2024 summer festival season.

The Pill Testing Pilot for Drug Harm Reduction Bill would establish a mobile pill testing service for major music festivals, as well as a fixed-site service for more detailed analysis year round.

Both sites would be licensed for two years with the potential for a four-year extension following a review.

Eight people are currently in a critical condition following a suspected drug overdose at a rave in Flemington on Saturday night.

The three cross-bench parties say that while Labor continues to refuse to adopt pill testing, more and more young people will be put at greater risk of overdose and drug-related death.

Last year a coalition of 77 peak bodies, unions and health services signed an open letter calling on the state government to implement pill testing and a public early warning system for dangerous drugs in circulation.

An offer was also made by public health experts to establish a free pill testing trial at a festival this summer.

To date, four state coronial reports have recommended establishing a pill testing service.

As stated by Acting Leader of the Victorian Greens, Aiv Puglielli MLC:

“We need to respond to events like these with action. Thoughts and prayers aren’t going to cut it.

“Every summer festival season we know people take drugs. Yet Labor continues to ignore the experts who say pill testing is the best way to keep them safe.

“It’s clear Labor’s current approach to drugs is putting young peoples’ lives at risk. But with our bill before Parliament, Labor could change that with the stroke of a pen.

“In jurisdictions like the ACT, where people are provided access to services like pill testing, many are choosing not to take their substance because they are provided with health information that makes them aware of what it is they are about to put into their body.

“They are more aware of the risk and they are more aware of the dosage of what it is that they’re taking.

“If Labor backs our trial it could help prevent what happened over the weekend from ever happening again.”

As stated by Animal Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria, Georgie Purcell MLC:

“As some of the youngest members of the Victorian Parliament, we know that people take drugs. We also know the risk of drug harm significantly increases when we head into the summer festival season. There’s an easy way to fix it.

“Growing up and experimenting should not be a death sentence. But the reality is, far too many young people are not making it home from parties or music festivals.

“The evidence is clear: pill testing saves lives. It doesn’t encourage drug use, it just simply makes it safer for those who do. And it’s time for the Victorian Government to commit to it.”

As stated by Legalise Cannabis Victoria Member for South-East Metro, Rachel Payne MLC:

“Pill testing has the potential to save lives – the evidence is clear and shows that pill testing services are well utilised and allow people to make informed choices about what they are consuming.

“Multiple experts, including Coroner’s have called for a sensible, health-led approach when it comes to totally preventable deaths related to drug-taking.

“The Allan Labor Government has been offered, by public health experts, an opportunity to establish a free pill testing trial – it’s a no-brainer and this offer should be accepted.”

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