You know what’s a real bummer? When you illegally purchase some ecstasy at a music festival and it ends up being crushed caffeine pills mixed with Panadol. You know what probably sucks more? When they’re mixed with something much worse, and you fucking die.
This is the scenario that Dr Alex Wodak is trying to prevent. Wodak is the current president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, and has partnered up with emergency medical specialist, David Caldicott, in order to present an absolutely non-controversial and damn logical solution: a privately funded drug testing trial – which will begin regardless of whether the NSW government and the NSW Police approve it or not – to allow consumers to test their pills before taking them, simply to make sure that what you’re taking isn’t just bleach mixed with rat poison.
In fact, Europe has already been successfully testing the pills of their party goers for quite some time. The result? Dangerous products tended to disappear from the market altogether once pill testing revealed just how toxic they were. In other words, pill testing actually pressured black market manufacturers to make their pills safer for the consumers. The results generally indicated that once you know what’s in your pill, you take away some of the power from the manufacturer, since you are now holding them accountable for the quality of their product. This comes as a surprise to literally no-one who has at any point in their lives been around shady drugs.
It is not at all shocking that Mike Baird is heavily against the incredibly sensible proposal of Dr Wodak and Mr Caldicott. In fact, anyone (read: everyone) who is familiar with Mike Baird’s lock-outs laws, which have decimated Sydney’s nightlife and will now be adopted by Queensland, will find the premier’s stance to be classically him.
Wodak has stated that he is prepared to run his trials by directly working with music festivals and similar events, vowing to go ahead with the trial with or without Baird’s backing. In other words, Wodak is actively volunteering to break the law, in order to save the lives of potentially dozens of young people.
Mike Baird on the other hand, who has stated that the lockout laws have been put in place strictly to protect young people and nightlife revellers from violence and binge drinking (casinos? What casinos?), in a statement to Fairfax Media, blasted the laws as, “ridiculous”, and followed up with, “we are not going to be condoning in any way what illegal drug dealers are doing.”
Well that’s fair enough. When you look at it from Mike Baird’s point of view (a man who was clearly cursed at birth with an inability to assess more than one obstacle at a time), allowing pill testing at these events, especially with the government’s approval, is similar to sending drug dealers a message that selling drugs is good. Well, we can’t have that can we? That’s not the hard line stance with which the Baird government rules NSW. But what does Mike Baird think we should do instead?
In an article published by the Daily Telegraph on 3 January 2016,(and we covered here) after the popular Field Day Festival saw 184 people charged with drug offences, with at least one confirmed woman rushed to hospital over a suspected MDMA overdose, along with at least 200 people treated by onsite paramedics, Mike Baird declared that, “enough is enough”. He then went on to present his solution on how to control drug consumption at music festivals:
“In the light of this latest distressing and avoidable incident, I will be asking the relevant ministers to review the current system of regulating events held on public land, including the system for granting permits for public events such as music festivals.”
What an unexpected turn of events! How uncharacteristic of the current NSW premier!
Baird continued, saying, “If new rules and procedure place additional burdens and costs on organisers, so be it,” clarifying that, “We will also examine denying permits to organisers who have not done the right thing in the past.”
So essentially the counter solution to the pill testing trial proposed by Wodak is to simply deny permits to events that have been condemned as having “not done the right thing in the past”, and to stick our heads in the sand like we’re fucking ostriches. This kind of knee-jerk reaction has now become a staple of the current NSW government, with a similar solution leading to over 15,000 people gathering in Sydney’s CBD a couple of weeks ago.
Of course, I haven’t even gotten to the best part. This isn’t Wodak’s first rodeo. Back in November 1986, he, along with a group of colleagues, pioneered the first needle syringe program. In 1999, he began the country’s first medically supervised injecting centre in the middle of what was arguably Australia’s worst heroin epidemic. It should also be noted that although Bob Carr, the premier at the time, was initially against the program, he was eventually persuaded into sanctioning it and has gone on to describe his decision and its subsequent results as one of his proudest career achievements.
Holy shit! This is the guy? The person who almost single-handedly stopped the deaths of thousands of people a year due to his needle exchange program is offering a solution to make ecstasy safer, and the NSW premier is too narrow-minded to even trial it?
Mike Baird, honestly, could not give less of a shit about this issue, deflecting all inquiries to Police Minister Troy Grant, whose only play is to remain adamant that police are going to continue using drug sniffer dogs to battle drug dealers and pigheadedly repeating that the government “does not support pill testing”. We get it, guys. The drugs in question are “illegal and inherently dangerous”. But people still take them, Troy, and while your army of sniffer dogs are definitely filling those arrest quotas, they’re doing sweet-fuck-all when it comes to actually making the drugs safer when consumers eventually (and they always do) get their hands on them.
So on one side we have Wodak, a man who has been quoted as saying, “I am prepared to break the law to save young people’s lives”. On the other we have the NSW premier, and his Police Minister crony, who are seemingly unable to separate the law and the chance to save lives while simultaneously having a clearer idea of what’s actually in the drugs they’re trying so hard to police.
It strikes me as an incredibly odd stance to take. They clearly understand the dangers of the drugs that they are trying to stop people from ingesting. They even know that sometimes these drugs are specifically laced with dangerous substances in order to make the consumer feel more fucked up. Yet instead of simply allowing the option for a safe place for people to go in order to test their drugs, they choose to take the hard-line stance and make everyone feel like criminals of a grand calibre.
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: much like the needle exchange programs don’t create more heroin addicts but do prevent deaths, pill-testing will do nothing more than provide a safe place for music festival goers to test the products they’ve bought. There isn’t even a downside. Instead of appearing to be ‘tough on drugs’, premier Mike Baird comes across as being laughably out of touch with the very demographic that he’s choosing to target, except it’s not only at the cost of votes, but people’s lives.
Main Image: Jammedup