Top cop backs drug amnesty bins at music festivals
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said music festivals at midnight were "like war zones" as he voiced his support for drug "amnesty bins" outside major dance events this summer.
The Commissioner told The Ripple Effect - a NewsCorp special report into the impacts MDMA and party drugs, that while he remains unconvinced about pill testing, he is open to other options.
"If your local pub or local RSL at midnight looked like a dance festival did, then there'd be an absolute outcry. Pubs and clubs wouldn't be allowed to operate like music festivals do, they're like war zones," Mr Fuller said.
"I just don't know why, what we accept as a safe venue in every restaurant, every pub and club in New South Wales is different for a music festival."
But Mr Fuller has offered to back "amnesty bins" to allow patrons to turf their drugs before they reached sniffer dogs at the gate.
He said NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant helped him understand the issues surrounding MDMA and pill testing.
"(Dr Chant) is a very moderate sort of person and explained it to me in such clear terms," Mr Fuller said.
"If MDMA was going to become a legal drug and a pharmaceutical company was going to produce that, then they would spend six-to-10 years testing that against different heights and weights," he said.
"This idea that a tablet that is manufactured in someone's garage by someone who probably doesn't have a school certificate … every tablet has a different consistency in a different weight.
"There's no guarantee that the consistency of the left side of the tablet is the same as the consistency of the right side of the tablet.
"I just find it hard to find any argument that pill testing is actually safe and it will save lives."
Asked whether it was better young people have some information about their drugs rather than none, he said the problem was the message sent by pill testing.
"I think this idea that pill testing is making a dangerous drug safe is just the wrong message," Mr Fuller added because the dance festival environment could be uniquely dangerous.
"Now, we also know that when an event runs for more than six hours, that you need to double and triple dose the MDMA to get the same rush that you need," he said.
"We know the temperature has a major impact in terms of health … so it is truly a complex issue."
Mr Fuller was the driving force behind the use of Criminal Infringement Notices at festivals - a $400 fine for small drug possession - and said he was open other "harm minimisation" tactics, which do not require charging a young person and sending them to court.
"I'm happy with amnesty bins, you know, if you want to put a bin somewhere … put it before the drug dogs, I'm happy with that," he said.
"If there are smart strategies that will protect kids I'd be all for it."
He said police would gladly respect those wanting to approach the bins to discard drugs.
"We, for years, have respected the safe injecting room at Kings Cross. We don't get complaints about chasing heroin users into the safe injecting room," he said.
"But just trying to covertly legalise drugs, I don't accept that."
Mr Fuller issued a fast rebuke when Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame ended her inquest into festival deaths this year by suggesting drug dogs were linked to a more harmful means of MDMA consumption like "panic ingesting" and "double dosing".
"I really felt there was a lack of evidence to come to that conclusion," he said.
"For the last two years anyone going to a music festival would know the police are going to be there in force, the drug dogs are going to be there, that we will stop and search people.
"We know that people secrete drugs in private parts and we know that because we find empty condom wrappers and empty water balloons in their hundreds, up to in their thousands.
"There's no focus on how many lives we have saved."