The Keep Sydney Open party has revealed the drug reform measures it will take to the NSW state election at a pill testing rally over the weekend.
As Sydney Morning Herald reports, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Sydney on Saturday calling on drug policy reform and for the introduction of pill testing at festivals. Gathering at Sydney's Town Hall the rally fell a week after the death of 19-year-old Alex Ross King at FOMO Festival.
Spokesperson Tyson Koh made the drug policy announcement at the rally.
It includes the introduction of free pill testing, an end to the sniffer dog program, the reduction of police strip-search powers, removal of criminal penalties and fines for drug possession, and a vow to legalise the use of cannabis in NSW.
“Treating drug use as a law enforcement issue is expensive, ineffective and can even be harmful," Koh said.
“All the evidence shows that ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘just say no’ policies simply don’t work and that harm reduction and treatment is the best way to minimise the dangers and reduce the broader impacts on crime and health.
“It’s 2019. It’s time for change. The majority of Australians support decriminalisation and 82% of young Australians support pill testing.
“There is a need for policy reform and a change in attitudes across society, aiming for a genuine harm minimisation strategy from a broad public health perspective.”
The policy announcement comes as pressure to save lives through evidence-based drug policy reaches boiling point.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann has admitted in an opinion piece written for the Sydney Morning Herald that she took "MDMA in my 20s and occasionally through my 30s and 40s" in what she describes as an attempt to bring "honesty" to the recreational drug use debate in NSW. She is the first MP to openly do so.
"As lawmakers we won’t save lives by sticking our heads in the sand," she wrote in the piece.
"We won’t save lives by telling the public things that don’t ring true with their own and others experience. It’s beyond time for an honest discussion about drugs if we are to keep young people safe who choose to take them. I know from experience just how many of them will."
Rainbow Serpent festival organisers have also confirmed to The Music pill testing will not be conducted at the festival which is set to take place this coming weekend.
"Unfortunately, current legislation doesn't allow us the capacity to conduct pill testing," they said.
"We will be hosting several talks and panels on progressive, sensible drugs policy and, of course, do everything we can to encourage patrons to make wise choices and practice self care. Dancewize will be on site alongside extensive medical facilities and Helper Huts in the campground where people can seek assistance if required."
At the forefront of the pill testing movement is Ted Noffs Foundation (who were instrumental in Australia's first-ever pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo in Canberra last year) and its campaigns and policy coordinator, Shelley Smith, who has a key insight into the process through extensive research. Smith recently gave us a complete rundown on how and why pill testing works. Read the story here.