New South Wales’ half pregnant drug policies

Obviously this is political rubbish but one suspects they’ve not really thought this through.

Some people have taken drugs at music festivals and have died so the government should test illegal drugs to check that they are safe.

Of course, there’s the usual instinctive dividing line between right and left going on here; “hard on crime” versus “the government must do something“.

There more to be had though. One of the easiest fallacies to fall for is the slippery slope fallacy, but the reason it is so tempting is that, quite often, there really is a slippery slope.

Let’s look at what might be involved in the New South Wales’ state government providing testing facilities for illegal substances at music festivals;

1. A pre-agreed list of drugs that will be tested. Will they be testing ecstasy, speed, ice, smack, Charlie, etc.? Does anyone still supply and take lysergic acid diethylamide?

2. A method of testing for each that can confirm the levels of all relevant substances. Chemical-based drugs (as opposed to organic drugs like weed) can be “cut” with all kinds of weird and wonderful rubbish from warfarin to toothpaste. It also needs to be a method that doesn’t destroy half of the pill or powder otherwise people won’t use the service.

3. Definitions of what “safe” levels of all of the possible danger factors might be.

4. Legal protection from the consequences of mistakes in the testing process. For example, if 19 year old Jaxson takes a pill to the government testing tent and is told it contains safe levels of amphetamine sulphate but, an hour later, he keels over and dies, is the NSW taxpayer suddenly on the hook for a massive compensation claim from his parents?

5. Legal protection from the consequences of capacity issues; what if Jaxson dies at a location not served by the government tent with folks in white coats?

Bill’s Opinion

The calls for illegal drug testing services at music festivals seems poorly-thought through and, instead, look like a thinly-disguised move towards legalising and regulating recreational drugs.

That’s a debate that really needs to be had in the open. There are many strong arguments for and against legalising and regulating recreational drugs but these are not being presented here. Instead, there’s a risk of a semi-legal, semi-regulated fudge of a compromise occurring, with a lot of unintended consequences later.

For what it’s worth, my view is that recreational drugs should be legalised, regulated (for quality and ensuring strict non-supply to minors) and taxed. There’s a large economy out there that law-abiding citizens could be benefiting from financially.

8 Replies to “New South Wales’ half pregnant drug policies”

  1. IIRC (another way of saying I’m too lazy to google up the source again) in liberal jurisdictions where pill testing does happen at various fuckfestivals – I mean… music festivals – (i.e. Netherlands type places) – and the on-site test reveals the pills are potentially dangerous, 60% of people go ahead & take the pills anyway.

    1. That doesn’t surprise me; anyone ingesting a chemical bought from a bloke with a neck tattoo and a couple of minders isn’t really concerned about personal safety to the same level as the vast majority of other citizens. The “we must test illegal drugs” crowd are simply projecting what they wish would be reality into reality….as always.

  2. Amusingly, there’s one helluva an overlap in the Venn diagram between the group of:

    1/. Girls who will emphatically refuse to eat a sausage roll, as it is “for sure” of dodgy provenance (even though the sausage roll is both retail sold, and manufactured, to a food hygiene compliance regime that would make the gestapo seem benevolent)
    2/. Girls who will then readily swallow some pills they clandestinely purchased from a shady thug who for all they know has stored the pills up his arse after making them from asbestos, rat poison, and chloroform.

  3. This one will possibly be the driver of the govt’s final decision, and is likely the final word on the matter:
    (pulled from the Letters to the Editor page of “The Australian”)

    Recent deaths of festival goers consuming pills of unknown ingredients have led to calls for pill testing. There are three issues that should be considered as a counter to these calls.
    First, there are now hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids, benzodiazepines, amphetamine types and opiates in circulation worldwide.
    It is not possible for any testing facility to identify all of these and in a time frame for the owner of the substance to be able to make an informed decision as to whether he or she should take the pill.
    Second, in order not to destroy the pill, the tester would need to scrape off a small amount.
    Unlike pharmaceutical tablets, the ingredients in a pill are unlikely to be homogeneously mixed. In other words, merely taking a scraping may well miss the impurity buried elsewhere within the tablet.
    Third, one of the deadliest substances circulating in 2018 was carfentanil, a highly potent synthetic opiate 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
    Carfentanil has been found mixed with heroin and cocaine resulting in deaths in Britain. The drug is fatal in microgram amounts. It is not yet known what substance/s were the actual cause of recent deaths and near fatalities. But testing wouldn’t identify microgram amounts of substances such as carfentanil.

    John Lewis, Centre for Forensic Science, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW

    1. Yes, very well put. Thanks for sharing.

      I bet that excellent and well-articulated logic won’t stop the taxpayer from paying for testing though.

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