While thousands of music lovers will descend on Exhibition Park on Sunday for the Canberra leg of Groovin the Moo, the eyes of the nation will be on the festival for a different reason.
Doctors, chemists and counsellors will be on site carrying out the second legal pill testing trial in Australia, the results of which could help change drug policy across the country.
Here's what you need to know about it.
Does pill testing mean I am allowed to bring drugs into the festival?
No. Drugs are still illegal in Canberra and on the festival grounds. However much like safe injecting rooms, police have agreed not to target the area where pill testing is taking place. However police will still have a strong presence at the festival and if they catch you with drugs, you will be arrested. Two people were arrested for drug offences at last year's event.
Why is pill testing allowed to take place?
The ACT government and ACT Policing have agreed to let Pill Testing Australia trial their drug checking service as an alternative way of reducing drug-related harm at music festivals. The service allows medical professionals to test drugs and educate potential drugtakers about the risks they face. Last year, 18 per cent of participants said they would not use the drug after receiving the results of their test, 12 per cent said they would consume less and 5 per cent said they would consume another drug instead.
What are the penalties for drug possession in the ACT?
The penalties for drug possession vary, but as an example if you possess 25 grams of cannabis or less you could receive a $100 fine or if you possess a prohibited substance such as one or two MDMA tablets you could be fined a maximum of $8000 or face up to two years in jail.
Where do I get my drugs tested?
Pill testing will take place in the medical services area of the festival. Last year the pill testing tent had a shared entrance with a health tent, so anyone watching from the outside would not know whether a patron was accessing the pill testing or health services. During the 2018 festival 129 people came through the tent and a total of 85 samples were provided.
Won't the police just hang around outside the tent arresting people for drug possession?
While there is no amnesty zone around the pill testing area, police have said they will not target people who use the service and will only enter the tent in an emergency or if required by organisers or the pill testers. No one who used the service last year was arrested by police.
How does the testing work?
Pill Testing Australia uses an infrared spectrometer, which can quickly identify the ingredients of a drug by comparing it with a library of substances. Canberra emergency doctor Dr David Caldicott said last year the equipment used to test the drugs was so sophisticated, it was even able to pick up the kind of condensed milk used as filler in the drugs.
Test results are assigned one of three colour-coded categories and pinned to a noticeboard to alert patrons of what may be circulating. 'Red' results indicate drugs that are associated with increased harm or multiple overdoses and death. 'Yellow' results indicate a disparity between what was in the drug what the patron expected it to be and 'white' results mean the drug is what the patron thought it was. Last year, two potentially lethal substances were detected.
How long does testing take?
The process takes around 15 minutes. Once you enter the tent you'll be asked to sign a consent form and answer some questions. If you are deemed to be too intoxicated you will be referred to the first aid and paramedics also located in the medical services area. If you are eligible to take part, chemists will then test your sample and the medical advisor will tell you the results. At no stage will you be told your drugs are safe.
There will also be harm reduction counsellors on hand to talk to you about your drug use. Three-quarters of the people who brought drugs for testing last year received brief drug and alcohol intervention counselling. There will also be an amnesty bin for people to dispose of unwanted drugs.
Can I get anything tested?
There are no restrictions on what kind of substance can be tested, so long as a small scraping or sample can be provided.
Last year patrons were told if they produced quantities of drugs that were legally deemed to be trafficable amounts they would be refused service.
How is what Pill Testing Australia does different to reagent tests you can pick up from chemists?
While a reagent test kit is valued at around $10, the equipment they use is valued at around $45,000 for each machine. A 'front-of-house' pill testing service also allows medical professionals to talk to potential users about their drug use and educate them about the risks they are taking.
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