Drug disposal bins should be introduced at music festivals so revellers can discard illicit substances without fear of being caught by sniffer dogs, health promotion groups say.
The so-called “amnesty bins” could prevent dangerous situations where partygoers panic and take multiple pills at once when faced with being searched by authorities, according to proponents.
Harm Reduction Victoria chairman Bill O’Loughlin said amnesty bins were a good “halfway measure”.
Harm Reduction Victoria has also been calling for pill-testing laboratories to be made available at events, which would allow revellers to test the make-up of the substances they had brought with them.
But Mr O’Loughlin said the amnesty bins could help prevent people from making “panicked decisions” and taking multiple pills they had planned to use over the course of an event.
“It’s a frightened impulsive reaction at the sight of the dogs.”
Mr O’Loughlin said amnesty bins would also allow drugs experts to analyse the contents of substances deposited in the bins.
“It gives them unique access to the drugs that are in circulation.”
Mr O’Loughlin said forensic testing of substances was mostly limited to seizures of drugs by police.
He said the presence of the bins would not hinder normal police operations.
Amnesty bins have been used overseas at events including the Glastonbury Festival.
Australian Drug Foundation chief executive John Rogerson said it was time to consider different approaches to drugs policy.
The foundation works to prevent harm from consuming alcohol and other drugs.
Mr Rogerson said banning drugs would not stop young people using them.
He would support trialling amnesty bins at events.
“I’d certainly be supportive of trying to see whether it works,” he said.
However, Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said there were no plans to begin providing amnesty bins at public venues.
“We will continue to work with Victoria police and our many successful festivals to keep people safe,” he said.
Mr Foley reiterated his support for the parliamentary inquiry into laws concerning illicit and synthetic drugs and prescription medication proposed by Sex Party MP Fiona Patten.
Stereosonic music festival founder Richie McNeill has also called for amnesty bins.
Mr McNeill, who now works for electronic music store and streaming service Beatport, said measures such as amnesty bins had worked well in some European countries. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”
Mr McNeill said drugs were too readily available in Australia and the current “zero tolerance” approach was not working.
He added his support for pill-testing.
“Any testing that can be done to basically identify bad poison out there that will stop the sale and distribution of this stuff…is going to make the police’s job a lot easier.”
Rainbow Serpent Festival spokesman Tim Harvey said the event’s organisers took direction from experts on harm reduction strategies for drugs.
“We’re more than open to listening to what the experts have to say and we’ll do everything we can to ensure patron safety,” he said.