Queensland has for the first time allowed pill testing to be offered across the state to “reduce risks and harms associated with illicit drug use”.
The Palaszczuk Government made the groundbreaking announcement at 9am on Saturday, following the success the ACT has experienced from a similar program.
Like in Canberra, Queensland’s health authorities will offer two different type of pill testing services.
One will be permanently available in a central hub of Brisbane. It’s understood that this will be rolled out at an existing needle exchange in the inner-city, The Australian reported.
The second option will be a mobile pill testing facility which will be made available during music festivals across the state.
In an important disclaimer, the government announcement pointed out that police powers “remain the same” and testing does not take away from police powers related to offences of illicit drug possession, supply and trafficking which remain the same.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D‘Ath said of the change in policy: “We don’t want people ending up in our emergency departments or worse losing their life.
“It is important to note that pill testing services do not promote that drugs are safe, however they are among a suite of options that can positively affect outcomes regarding illicit drug use.
“Pill testing services will inform people what chemical substances are in their drugs.”
All the other states and territories besides Canberra and Queensland still do not allow for pill testing.
NSW and Victoria, the country’s two largest states, continue to resist calls for pill testing to be introduced.
Last week, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet copped criticism for responding to a of “magical thinking” after he responded to a renewed push for the scheme to be extended by saying “don’t take drugs”
The debate was sparked after two weekends ago, at the Transmission Music Festival on Saturday, February 11, 26-year-old Kieran Ngo died from an overdose on MDMA, just hours after taking the drug.
Twelve more people were hospitalised due to drug-related incidents at the event.
More than 130 people were treated by medics at the venue with complaints related to drug use and heat exhaustion, according to NSW Police.
Queensland’s new pill testing rules is a significant backflip from the state’s previous hard stance on drugs.
It comes as earlier this week, on Tuesday, Queensland also softened other drug-related legislation in a sign of a major reform for the state.
The changes include giving anyone caught carrying up to a gram of heroin, cocaine, or ice three chances before they face criminal charges.
First-time offenders will get a warning, and second- and third-time offenders will be offered an opportunity to participate in a drug diversionary program.
Only on the fourth time are police required to issue a court notice to appear on the charge of drug possession.
The new laws – which the Palaszczuk government developed alongside police and health and drug experts – intend to ease the workload on police and the courts, and keep users with health issues out for the judicial system.
The move brings Queensland into line with other states and territories in offering diversionary programs or education rather than convictions for possession of drugs other than cannabis.
These new laws are among the softest in Australia.
Victoria offers fewer chances before a conviction on possession and NSW law defines a “small quantity” of a drug being a quarter of Queensland’s. Only the ACT and South Australia are more lenient.
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