pills pill testing

On the weekend, the name of Callum Brosnan was added to the tragic roster of young Australians killed by our politicians and police forces. Brosnan died in hospital after a Sydney dance music festival. His death joins those of two others in September at the Defqon 1 festival. The fault lies with politicians like Gladys Berejiklian and Troy Grant, the NSW police minister, and senior NSW police. 

Pill-testing would not have guaranteed that they, or other young people who have died from drug overdoses or poisoning at music festivals around Australia in recent years, would still be alive. But we know it would have markedly increased the chances of that. Instead, the politicians warn of crackdowns, and bans, and increased penalties, and all the rhetoric that has long accompanied the failed, and fatal, prohibitionist approach to drug regulation. We know that under this approach, more young people will die than if pill testing is allowed. But inexplicably, the deliberate decision of politicians and police to take an approach that kills more people is not a major scandal.

Is it because those people are young? Is our war-on-young-people mentality, in which they are punished economically for the crime of not being Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, so great it extends to being willing to let them die? It is because the issue carries the stigma of drug use? As if people over 30 never took illicit drugs, and consumed legal drugs, in far greater and excessive levels when they were young, or continue to do so now. Is it because politicians fear the wrath of influential right-wingers? Even some of those think prohibition has failed.

No matter the reason, the outcome is clear: young people continue to die, families continue to suffer the agony of losing a child, a brother or sister, friends have to attend the funeral of people with their lives ahead of them. All for nothing; these are senseless deaths the chances of which can be significantly reduced, at little expense, on a sound empirical basis. The policymakers who refuse to do so have blood on their hands.

Peter Fray

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