The stage looks set for pill testing at Groovin the Moo when the music festival moves to its new home at Exhibition Park in Canberra next April.
As the 2019 venue was revealed on Wednesday, all key stakeholders told The Canberra Times they are hoping to see more testing go ahead, with talks already underway to hold another trial at the new site in Mitchell.
Following the success of an Australian-first pill testing trial at this year's festival, the consortium behind the testing put in a suite of proposals for other Canberra events, including Groovin the Moo 2019.
ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the government remained committed to pill testing as a "sensible" harm minimisation strategy, and she would reconvene its working group to consider the proposal.
"I’m hopeful we will be able to work with Cattleyard again to conduct pill testing at next year’s Groovin the Moo," Ms Fitzharris said.
A spokeswoman said Cattleyard was excited to bring the festival to its new Canberra home at EPIC.
"Cattleyard was pleased with how the pill testing trial went in 2018 and would welcome it back at the Canberra event next year," she told The Canberra Times.
Members of the consortium said they were hoping another trial might even be on the cards before the festival returned to Canberra, as proposals were weighed up for a number of upcoming events.
But emergency doctor David Caldicott, who ran the April trial, said the group weren't making any assumptions about Groovin the Moo just yet.
"It's not a done deal yet, though we certainly have a good relationship with Cattleyard," Dr Caldicott said.
ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said he was thrilled the federal government wouldn't be able to "jeopardise" another trial, as the park sits on territory-owned land.
An ACT government spokeswoman said EPIC was one of the few venues run by the territory capable of hosting a large-scale event like Groovin the Moo and it was looking forward to building an ongoing relationship with Cattleyard.
The Groovin the Moo testing, which only gained final approval at the 11th hour, was widely hailed as a success by medical experts, picking up two potentially lethal substances and seeing two in five participants modify their planned drug consumption. But the Canberra Liberals have raised concerns testing could condone drug use, calling on their federal counterparts to intervene.
Gino Vumbaca of the consortium said there was now international interest in what was happening in the ACT, especially in light of the deaths of two people at Sydney festival Defqon.1 last month.
Dr Calidicott said "bad things around the country" were happening under a prohibitionist approach to drugs.
"It's on their watch, there's some wild and deep misunderstandings out there about how young people use drugs, and this kind of magical thinking that we can have a drug-free Australia," he said.
"But this isn't about ideology or morality, this is about stopping people getting killed."
The team also collect data on drug use during the trials, allowing researchers to look more closely at an often "invisible" consumer group, Dr Caldicott said.
Independent academics from the Australian National University will evaluate a second trial if it is approved.
Mr Rattenbury has since written to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt stressing that the Morrison government's opposition to pill testing was out of step with the Commonwealth's own National Drug Strategy which advocated harm minimisation.
Minister Hunt has previously said that, while he does not support pill testing, a trial was a matter for the territory.
Last week, University of Canberra vice-chancellor Deep Saini said capital works on campus meant it was no longer "fit for purpose" to host the event and so the university had approached Cattleyard to end their contract.
The revelation came as Canberra Liberal Andrew Wall questioned how the university's zero tolerance policy on drugs could be reconciled with the April pill testing trial it approved.
Professor Saini said the university had supported the trial, along with the government and police, as a public health initiative.
A spokeswoman said the University of Canberra was a proud supporter of live music and would continue to host Australian and international acts at the UC Refectory.
With Andrew Brown
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