New pill-testing push as mother of drug victim urges premier to act for ‘greater good’

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Despite strong support from the Australian Medical Association for a pill-testing trial, and the Victorian government’s decision to establish a medically supervised drug-injecting room trial, Daniel Andrews has opposed the idea. Photograph: U.S. Customs/Getty Images

The mother of a young man who died of a drug overdose at a music festival has urged the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, to “look at the greater good” and support a new push to for pill-testing in the state.

On Monday the Greens will unveil plans to introduce legislation for a two-year trial, including a mobile pill-testing facility to attend music festivals and a fixed-site laboratory that could test drugs all through the year.

The legislation will be known as “Daniel’s Bill” after Daniel Buccianti, who died of a drug overdose at the Rainbow Serpent festival in 2012.

His mother, Adriana Buccianti, now a drug reform campaigner, said pill-testing was not a “silver bullet” but would protect young people like her son.

“When a person dies of a drug overdose that has a lot of stigma attached to it,” she said. “I [don’t] want parents to go through that … It’s clear that whatever it is that we’re doing isn’t working.”

Despite strong support from the Australian Medical Association for a trial, and the Victorian government’s controversial decision to establish a medically supervised drug-injecting room trial, the premier has steadfastly opposed the idea.

He dismissed comparisons to the injecting room in March, adding that the idea behind pill-testing was “wrong and potentially dangerous because it misleads people”.

Buccianti told Guardian Australia: “I would really like Mr Andrews to just put himself in my position for just 10 seconds and see what it feels like.

Drug reform campaigner Adriana Buccianti says pill-testing is not a ‘silver bullet’ but it would protect young people like her son
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 Drug reform campaigner Adriana Buccianti says pill-testing is not a ‘silver bullet’ but it would protect young people like her son. Photograph: Luke Costin/AAP

“Having the person that you love most in your life never coming back, never having a Christmas, never having a birthday.

“He needs to look at the greater good. We need to protect people who take drugs. That’s not only just young people, but we know young people take them. And they are the future of Australia.”

At least six of the 11 MPs in the Victorian upper house back a pill-testing trial, including the Greens and the Reason party MP Fiona Patten.

The Greens’ drug law reform spokesman, Tim Read, said most people choose to “throw out their drugs when informed that they contain harmful substances”.

“Prohibition is a policy of rejection and of saying we don’t care about drug users,” he said. “Pill testing shows we take their health seriously.

“We must acknowledge the current approach is resulting in unintended consequences and instead choose policies that have worked elsewhere.”

A policy document states that the pill-testing trial would include a fixed site that would allows pills to be more “throughout the year, not just during the festival season”.

The trial would be reviewed after one year, with the possibility of it being extended to a four-year pilot.

The data collected would allow the chief health officer to issue a health alert to warn members about a lethal batch of drugs, the policy states.

A New South Wales government inquiry into drug use is examining the effectiveness of pill-testing, though the government is opposed to the measure.

Canberra’s Groovin The Moo festival has twice offered pill-testing services, with the support of the ACT government. Organisers claimed seven lives were potentially saved at the April event.

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