Former Police Commissioner: We Need Pill Testing Not More Arrests
The latest in a series of tragic festival deaths, this time in Victoria, is yet another nail in the coffin of the failed “Just Say No” strategy on drug use.
When it comes to keeping our kids safe what we desperately need is bipartisan commitment to reduce harm from drugs – not a bipartisan commitment to anti-drug, but ultimately useless, rhetoric.
Unfortunately, though, that’s what we’ve seen out of parliaments all across Australia for way too long. Politicians almost pile over themselves to outdo each other in how "tough" they can be with illicit drugs policy.
Well, tough language doesn't save lives, but making tough and brave decisions can.
No one is suggesting this is an easy political issue. Clearly, it is not. Nor are there any silver bullet answers. But unquestionably, doing more of the same in policy terms is not and cannot be an option.
Now, finally, we are seeing some movement -- at least in some pockets -- with the ALP in NSW signalling it will reconsider its position on pill testing as part of a drug summit to be held if elected in March.
But it beggars belief that our leaders need still more evidence that threats against young people are not working -- and cannot work -- in stopping drug deaths and drug use.
I would love to support a ‘Just Say No’ strategy -- if I had any evidence that it could work. But I don’t. I would also love to live in a drug-free society but this desire is as unrealistic as are our current strategies.
I have become a spokesperson for the national campaign for safer, saner drug laws ‘Take Control' because all the available evidence points to pill testing being a proven and genuine means of reducing harm and danger and saving young lives -- not just talking about it.
My heart aches for the young people who have recently lost their lives and I recognise that almost all the parents of young people are understandably scared as their kids go out to enjoy the festival season.
How can governments look parents in the eye and say they are doing everything they can – when they refuse to consider or even listen to the evidence around harm minimisation?
We have doctors and drug treatment experts standing by to make live music and festivals safer for our kids with pill testing.
The undeniable facts are that young people can get drugs easily, and simply don’t know what they are taking. The facts are that many young people will still choose to take party drugs at music festivals and similar events, regardless of the level of police presence.
In responding to tragedy we must sometimes face hard truths. Decades of a punitive approach where we arrest young people has not worked. It is time to seriously consider other options and to take practical steps to make parties safer for our kids.
I am the first to admit, pill testing is not a silver bullet but it is a proven and positive way to improve the safety of those who choose to use drugs and a clearly more effective pathway than the one governments seem determined to keep us on.
Let’s make our next slogan “Let’s Just Say No to Any More Unavoidable Deaths”.
Feature Image: AAP/ Getty Images