The criminalisation of MDMA has not mitigated the social demand and use, despite harsh laws instilling fear of persecution in the user. As a response to this, Australian Federal and State Governments have increased funding to Police, such as in the NSW State Budget for 2019 wherein the NSW Police Force budget was increased by $151 million (+3.8%) to enforce the War on Drugs (NSW State Budget 2019-2020, Section 6 – 7).
An inquest report published by the State Coroners Court of NSW recommended both fixed and on-site drug checking be drafted into policy within New South Wales state law (Grahame 2019, p.119) following the investigation of MDMA related music festival deaths of six young adults. Grahame also noted that the presence of Police and security at festivals instilled fear into drug-using patrons, causing them to not ask for help, and in one case, evidence confirmed that to avoid detection through strip searching and sniffer dogs, one young woman consumed all of the illicit drugs she possessed prior to entering the festival to avoid detection by police upon entry (Grahame 2019, p.16). General fear and intimidation instilled by police strip searching is a phenomenon that is controversial and problematic in regards to vulnerable people, many of which may not even be holding illicit drugs (Grewcock 2019, p.16). NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian dismissed the coroner’s call for pill testing prior to the redacted public release of the coroners report, stating pill testing would give “a false sense of security” to drug users at festivals (McGowan 2019). It is startling that despite the advice of qualified professionals such as Grahame and those transdisciplinary specialists in the field of Law and Medicine are more informed in this matter than politicians such as Berejiklian, who still reject this information in favour of keeping drug policy stagnant.
Australia is conservative in regards to drug policy in comparison to the progressive action of other developed nations, which had previously taken many of the measures recommended by Grahame (2019) into legal policy with the goal of harm reduction. In 1992, the Netherlands Ministry for Health funded Europe’s first public drug-testing system of stationary nationwide facilities to test purity and dosage of MDMA. Since then, other drug-checking systems have sprouted throughout Europe. Furthermore, it has been observed that countries which have established drug checking facilities have recorded and warned of dangerous MDMA batches, yet in the UK, 4 deaths were attributed to one of the same batches of MDMA that was otherwise discovered in progressive countries with drug-checking, resulting in 0 deaths (Brunt 2017, p.13).
The evidence suggests that Australia could do better in its drug policy, based on transdisciplinary research and global studies of other countries response to the issue of supply and demand for illicit drugs.
Brunt, T. 2017, Drug Checking As A Harm Reduction Tool For Recreational Drug Users: Oportunities and Challenges, Research Paper, Eurpoean Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, The Netherlands.
Grahame, H. 2019, Inquest Into The Death of Six Patrons Of NSW Music Festivals, Inquest, State Coroner’s Court of New South Wales, Lidcombe, NSW Australia.
Grewcock, M. 2019, Rethinking Strip Searches By NSW Police, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
McGowan, M. 2019, NSW Premier Dismisses Coroner’s Call For Pill Testing Before Report is Publicly Released, The Guardian, <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/oct/16/nsw-premier-dismisses-coroners-call-for-pill-testing-before-report-is-publicly-released>.
Perrottet, D. 2019, NSW Budget Estimate 2019-20, Budget Report, Treasurer of New South Wales.<https://www.budget.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/budget-2019-06/Budget_Paper_3-Budget_Estimates-Budget_201920.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1NP7mmRDwW8qBxmABl-um9-6BdQN7bPMMAK_Q9tEa86_wZwFgywG8VVnY>.
Straughn, A. 2018, Shambhala Photo, Digital Photograph, My Kootenay Now, <https://www.mykootenaynow.com/28384/shambhala-donates-10k-for-drug-checking-device/>.