NSW Greens Member Introduces Pill Testing Bill

Wednesday 20 November 2019 @ 9.41 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

On 26 September 2019, NSW Greens Member Cate Faehrmann introduced the Pill Testing Bill 2019 (NSW) (“the Bill”) into the Legislative Council. The Bill’s second reading speech was delivered on 14 November 2019. The Bill is currently still under debate in the upper house.
The Bill

The Bill proposes the introduction of pill testing licenses, which permits the holder to provide a pill testing service.

The Bill defines a pill testing service in clause 7 as:

“the service of—

(a) receiving a substance (in pill form or in any other form) from a member of the public who voluntarily provides the substance for pill testing, and

(b) analysing the substance or any part of it to determine its composition, including determining whether it is or contains—

(i) a prohibited drug, or

(ii) a poison, or

(iii) a restricted substance, or

(iv) a drug of addiction, or

(v) any other substance that would cause harm if ingested, and

(c) providing information about the composition of the substance to the person who provided it, and

(d) providing drug counselling services in respect of any health risks associated with the composition of the substance provided for pill testing.”

The Bill proposes the provision of two different licences, one to cover a fixed facility and another for a mobile facility for pill testing. Ms Faehrmann notes in her second reading speech that the provision of a permanent pill testing facility addresses drug use on private premises.

The Bill outlines the proposed application process for a pill testing license. The application process includes requirements that the applicant be a fit and proper person to hold the license and that the facility must have the required internal management protocols. Clause 13 of the Bill provides for the required protocols, which includes a director that oversees the operations of the pill testing service at the premises, and the provision of drug counselling services in regards to health risks associated with the composition of the substances provided for testing.

In determining the application of a license, the Secretary of the Department of Health ("the Secretary") must give written notice of the outcome, however is not required to give reasons for the decision. The Secretary's decision is also final and not subject to review. However, in issuing a pill testing license, the Secretary has further discretion to impose additional conditions on the licensee. Furthermore, the Bill proposes to allow the online publication of information in regards to the drugs tested, if the Secretary believes that it is in the public interest to do so.

Part 3 of the Bill addresses the proposed criminal and civil liability of individuals who use the pill testing facility and the relationship of the Act with the:

  • Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW)
  • Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 (NSW)
  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW).

NSW Deputy State Coroner Inquest

Ms Faehrmann notes in her second reading speech that the Bill addresses the first five recommendations given by Deputy State Coroner Grahame’s Inquest into the deaths of six patrons of NSW music festivals (“the Inquest”). These recommendations are listed in paragraph 560 in the Inquest:

“1. That the Department of Premier and Cabinet permits and facilitates Pill Testing Australia, The Loop Australia, or another similarly qualified organisation to run front of house medically supervised pill testing/drug checking at music festivals in NSW with a pilot date starting the summer of 2019–20.

2. That the Department of Premier and Cabinet, working with NSW Health and NSW Police, fund the establishment of a permanent drug checking facility, similar to the Dutch model known as the Drug Information Monitoring System (DIMS).

3. That the Department of Premier and Cabinet, working with NSW Health, research and support the development of technology to allow for the most sophisticated and detailed drug analysis to be made available on site at music festivals.

4. That the Department of Premier and Cabinet, working with NSW Health, research and support the development of early warning systems at music festivals generally and arising from front of house and/or back of house drug checking.

5. That the Department of Premier and Cabinet, working with the NSW State Coroner, NSW Police, FASS and NSW Health, develop protocols for the open sharing of information between these agencies regarding drug trends and monitoring of drug deaths.”

The Inquest looked into the death of six festival attendees in the period of December 2017 to January 2019, and was published on 8 November 2019. It investigated the deaths of the individuals, and addressed the issues concerning the manner and cause of their deaths. The Inquest additionally made recommendations various government departments, including the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Department of Health, and the NSW Police Force.

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