Written by Andrew Fraser
March 24, 2016
Emotions have run high about the issue of drugs in our community for a long time – with deeply held views often in conflict.
The Howard Government held to a “zero-tolerance”, “tough-on-drugs” policy while other administrations in the states and territories instituted a “harm-minimisation” approach, including safe heroin-injecting rooms and the birth of drug courts, diverting offenders into rehabilitation rather than the harsher penalties provided under criminal law.
The new battleground is the plethora of music festivals and what should be done about the multitude of drugs being found in searches at them.
A Canberra doctor risks breaking the law with a plan to test pills at these festivals and allow people to retain them, rather than have sniffer dogs root out drug stashes, leading to arrests and court.
Dr David Caldicott says the testing service would save lives, after the deaths of a number of young people at festivals in recent years, including cases where people have quickly taken large amounts of tablets in an attempt to avoid arrest, not knowing the true contents of the material they were ingesting.
“We could run the trial tomorrow, find out what drugs are on the market now and persuade 60 per cent of consumers not to take their pill,” Dr Caldicott told The Canberra Times. “It’s the only intervention that’s ever been shown to actually stop people using drugs at the point of consumption.”
NSW Police oppose the plan and the ACT Government does not endorse it despite purporting to run a “harm minimisation” approach.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the Times, “The possession of drugs remains an offence within the context of a harm-minimisation approach.”
However, the ACT Justice Minister, Shane Rattenbury, has called for the ACT to lead a “multi-pronged” pill-testing pilot proposal.
If you are facing court for a possession or other drug matter, including driving with an illicit drug in your blood, it pays to get legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in the area.
Armstrong Legal’s team deal only in criminal and traffic law and understand the variety of charges and penalties that apply and the way the law is currently applied in the ACT and NSW.