Doctors plan festival pill testing against police wishes

DOCTORS planning to flout the law and carry out pill testing trials at music festivals have not ruled out an appearance at Splendour in the Grass or Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Emergency doctor and Australian National University senior lecturer Dr David Caldicott has joined forces with Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Dr Alex Wodak to carry out the privately funded trial whether the government supports it or not.

"This is not some back of a napkin overnight brainwave," Dr Caldicott said.

"We have been involved in calling for this for more than 15 years.

"The Australian Medical Association was calling for a trial back in 2005.

"You would be hard pushed to find any sensible scientist or medical professional in Australia who would be against this."

The plan is to crowd fund enough capital to bring a mobile drug testing laboratory to festivals, staffed by forensic toxicologists licensed to handle illicit drugs, with medical and drug and alcohol experts on hand.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird was adamant the tests would not go ahead.

"That is an absolutely ridiculous proposal," he said.

"We're in a position that we absolutely do not support that in any way.

"There is a very safe way to go about pills and this is to not take them.

"This won't be happening here in NSW."

Dr Caldicott called it a simplistic stance that ignored the fact people were overdosing at festivals.

He was not scared to act outside the government's wishes.

"I would far more worried about what would happen (to the politicians) if they arrested me," he said.

"I don't think I have to worry much about a backlash.

"But the backlash for arresting a doctor trying to save our community's children's lives - I think that would be terminal."

Dr Caldicott said pill testing was the best option available to discourage festival-goers from using drugs.

"If you have people on site who are checking drugs and telling people they aren't safe, as many as 60% of young consumers don't take their drugs," he said.

"They are not going to take the drugs they know will hurt them and make them have a terrible time.

"There is no other intervention that does that.

"Rather than telling them that they're being naughty, you can use their health and the possibility of their death as leverage for them to stop using drugs.

"As a doctor, I happen to know what works better."

The approach would require the permission of festival organisers to allow the pill testing units on site.

Mardi Gras this weekend would have been a perfect launch pad but crept up too quickly, Dr Caldicott said.

"We're not suggesting we set up outside primary schools. These are venues everybody in Australia knows drugs are being taken at," he said.

A crowd funding campaign will be set up in coming days to help pay for costs.

"We're not looking for confrontation," Dr Caldicott said.

"We have been forced into this position because of the nature of the rhetoric from our political offsiders.

"The door is very much open for them to talk with us.

"Interestingly, not once has anyone from the NSW Government contacted any of us to discuss this.

"The Stoner Sloth campaign was their best pitch.

"Mine kicks arse by comparison."

Drug reform campaign group Unharm has lent support to the plan, using its Twitter account to ask Mr Baird and Police Minister Troy Grant if they were "prepared to arrest all of us". -APN NEWSDESK



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