The University of Canberra has paved the way for a pill-testing trial to take place at next month’s Groovin the Moo festival.
It comes after a proposal to hold a trial at last year’s Spilt Milk festival was pulled by the promoter weeks before the event, despite having the backing of the ACT government, police and health officials.
Spilt Milk festival was held at Commonwealth Park, which is federal government land, requiring a license from the National Capital Authority.
But Groovin the Moo will be held at the University of Canberra, land owned by the ACT Government.
A spokeswoman for the university confirmed it was supportive of the trial.
“The University of Canberra is open to supporting a pill-testing trial at a festival held on university grounds, providing the main stakeholders and relevant authorities are all in agreement,” she said in a statement.
It is not yet clear whether the promoter of Groovin the Moo, Cattleyard, has signed on to the trial and calls to the promoter by the ABC have not been returned.
A proposal for the latest trial was submitted to the ACT government by the consortium behind the initiative STA-SAFE earlier this year.
Groovin the Moo is an all-ages event.
Government still supportive of trial
The ACT Government gave the green light to a pill-testing trial at Spilt Milk in September, alongside ACT Health officials and the consortium behind the initiative.
The trial was also supported by ACT Policing, which played a role in its development.
A spokeswoman said the Government continues to back a pill-testing trial in Canberra.
“The ACT Government supports a controlled trial of pill testing, conducted by an independent consortium, as was proposed for the Spilt Milk Festival last year,” she said.
“The current proposal for Groovin the Moo will undergo the same cross-government evaluation that occurred last year for Spilt Milk, and the relevant working group has been reconvened.”
Shortly after the Spilt Milk trial fell over last year, STA-SAFE member and emergency room doctor David Caldicott told the ABC he believed the promoter had been pressured to ditch the plans.
The NCA denied any pressure had been applied on the promoter.
What is pill testing and how does it work?
Under the Spilt Milk proposal, festival-goers could take their pills to a medical-like tent to have them tested by STA-SAFE staff for chemicals known to cause problems if taken.
Staff would require patrons to fill out a survey about their consumption habits but would not collect any identifying information.
Police and other stakeholders, including the Government, would get access to anonymous data on drugs and behaviours.
ACT Health’s website labels pill testing as a “harm-reduction service (also known as drug checking) that analyses the contents of drugs and helps you avoid taking unknown and potentially dangerous substances often found in illicit drugs.”
“The evidence shows that pill testing can help to keep young people safe,” the website states.
“Available evidence indicates that providing consumers with information about the content of illegal drugs they intend to ingest can reduce rates of overdose of toxicity from unknown substances.”
ACT Health also notes pill testing is available in 20 countries in Europe, the Americas and New Zealand.
However, it also notes that pill testing does not make taking drugs safe.
No legislation changes would be required for the trial to take place.