By David Caldicott/The Conversation

Days out from the event, festival goers for Canberra’s Groovin the Moo festival were told the event would no longer be offering a free drug checking service after Pill Testing Australia, which provides the testing service, had public liability insurance withdrawn, without explanation from insurers.

Pill testing in the Australian Capital Territory was hard fought and won, and this represents a setback for an intervention that can reduce the harms of drug consumption.

A history of pill testing in Australia

In Australia, the ACT has been ahead of other states in applying innovative drug policies. In 2018, it gave permission for Australia’s first trial of pill testing at a music festival. Pill testing, or “drug checking” as it’s often called internationally, is a harm reduction intervention with clear benefits.

Acknowledging a “drug-free” Australia is magical thinking, and that some people will always use drugs, pill testing provides consumers with information about the actual content of their chosen substance, so they might make better decisions about consumption. It also gives us access to an otherwise invisible group of “functional” drug consumers.