The ACT’s government-backed drug-testing service was forced to turn people away ahead of Canberra’s Spilt Milk festival last week, due to overwhelming demand.
As reported by ABC, CanTEST had to turn away 27 people on Friday November 25, despite extending their opening hours to accommodate an anticipated increase in testing services.
The clinic, which is usually open for three hours on Thursdays and Fridays, announced earlier last month they would be staying open longer in the lead up to the festival. This resulted in an influx of people accessing the services, with researchers collecting and testing 106 samples — almost double what they collected in their first month of opening back in July.
Bronwyn Henry, the director of Directions Health Service which operates CanTEST, said it was a learning for future events, and they hoped to increase operating hours even further down the track.
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“Our experience has shown that the young people attending the festival — both local Canberrans and those from interstate — appreciated the opportunity to test the substances they were considering consuming and were also mindful of the harm minimisation advice provided,” she said.
Speaking upon the extended-hours announcement, Harm Reduction Australia President Gino Vumbaca said last month: “While we continue to work through the challenges to keep delivering Festival Pill Testing, which is clear the organisers want, festival attendees want and we need to provide to protect young people, it is so important that the ACT Government has carefully considered all the evidence and established the nation’s first fixed site pill testing site as it enables us the opportunity to reduce some of the harm for those consuming drugs at festivals.”
CanTEST was opened by the ACT government as part of a six-month trial to reduce harm caused by illicit drugs, backed by Pill Testing Australia, Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy and Directions Health Services.
Since opening, the clinic has made numerous discoveries around the purity of various substances brought in for testing. Per ABC, 58 samples were tested in the clinic’s first month. Only three out of five cocaine samples contained any of the drug, with a purity of less than 27%, while the purity of MDMA samples varied from 9-73%. That month, 18 people discarded their drugs upon learning what they contained.
In October, CanTEST also flagged a new substance called ‘CanKet’ that hadn’t previously been recorded in Australia. The drug shares similarities to ketamine but with different effects, though researchers at the time said they still weren’t quite sure what the extent of these were.
Spilt Milk festival took place on November 26, with a line-up that included Flume, Toro y Moi, Stand Atlantic, Spacey Jane, The Wombats and plenty more. Despite a paddock fire that damaged several cars and injured one punter, the festival was marked by NME as an overall success.
“The festival’s grand Canberra comeback was a hard-earned return to the epic scale and abundance of good vibes that put Spilt Milk on the map,” NME‘s Ellie Robinson wrote in a five-star review.
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