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Hundreds test drugs at Rabbits Eat Lettuce music festival

Hundreds of patrons have had their drugs tested in a free service at a Queensland music festival.

Hundreds of patrons have had their drugs tested in a free service at a Queensland music festival. Photo: AAP

Queensland’s first event-based drug testing clinic has yielded positive results after 210 substances were sampled at the four-day Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival.

The state government in March announced nearly $1 million in funding over two years for pill testing services.

It follows increasing calls for standardised pill-testing programs at festivals after the deaths of Dassarn Tarbutt, 24 and Ebony Greening, 22, at the 2019 Rabbits Eat Lettuce event near Warwick.

Queensland became the first jurisdiction in Australia to commit to supporting pill testing on an ongoing basis but sits behind the ACT, which was the first to offer pill testing.

Over the Easter long weekend, Rabbits Eat Lettuce saw 257 people visit the drug-checking tent staffed by qualified chemists offering a free, voluntary and confidential service.

A team of specialist health care and harm reduction workers were also on deck to provide information about the dangers of drug use.

Of the 210 substances tested, about 14 samples were discarded.

The most common substances presented for testing included MDMA and ketamine.

Other higher-risk synthetic substances were detected that were sold as other drugs, one of which was first detected at Canberra’s fixed pill testing service.

Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said the service is vitally important in light of 2200 drug-related deaths in Australia in 2021.

“The drug checking service provided health advice and harm reduction information to hundreds of festival goers this weekend, meaning that those who did decide to take drugs did so in a more informed way,” she said.

“Many participants said that they would reconsider or take less of the substances they had in their possession, which is an excellent outcome.”

Opposition leader David Crisafulli on Sunday said it was a “hard no” on whether he thinks pills should be encouraged to be used at festivals.

Queensland Health chose two providers with extensive experience to deliver the state-funded, fixed site testing service.

Queensland Injectors Health Network, The Loop Australia and the Queensland Injectors Voice for Advocacy and Action will jointly deliver two services in south-east Queensland in 2024.

The other provider, Harm Reduction Australia, will deliver several festival-based services across 2024 and 2025.

Victoria has also come under pressure to introduce pill testing services following the death of a man from a suspected overdose in March.

Two men aged in their 30s and 40s were reportedly also taken to hospital in stable conditions following suspected overdoses at the Pitch Music and Arts Festival, which was then cancelled due to dangerous heatwave conditions and extreme fire danger.

-AAP
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