The death of a nineteen year old man a A State Of Trance a fortnight ago was the third dance party death in Sydney in the last 18 months. ‘All that we can do is to keep on running drug dog operations,’ NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Frank Mennilli said in the Police press conference following the event. ‘Because drug dog operations saves lives, they really do.’
Good intentions are no compensation for a lack of evidence. The dog operations are putting lives at risk. The most stark example is the death of James Munro in 2013 who swallowed three pills at once to avoid detection by drug dogs at the Defqon1 music festival in Penrith. In the face of continuing deaths, police clearly don’t know what will work. ‘It’s very frustrating,’ NSW Police Superintendent Danny Doherty commented earlier this year,
‘Every year these music festivals or dance parties run and every year there’s an increased number of detections. Police are just constantly shaking their heads about the fact that people are still attempting to do this.’
Before more people die, we need less head shaking and more pragmatism: an end to the drug detection dog program; a start for drug checking services; and better harm reduction education and outreach to festival attendees.
A silver lining to the cloud of another tragic death is that it’s led Unharm to link up with the Trance Music Appreciation Society (TMAS) on a new project called #tranceforlife. TMAS is a community of people who share a passion for Trance music and has now become one of the largest and most active Trance music groups on Facebook worldwide.
We've kicked off this collaboration with a joint statement acknowledging that drug use is one of the realities of the scene, and that the recent deaths have clarified what is at stake: no-one should die a preventable death.
Clearly, programs like sniffer dogs aren’t working and the lack of drug checking services is putting people at unnecessary risk. It’s time for a new, pragmatic approach that can actually reduce risks.
Arguments about not condoning drug use have no place. They make as much sense as arguing that lifejackets condone boating - a known cause of death by drowning. Harm reduction is about responding reality with pragmatic steps to reduce risk.
Change will only come when people build power through unity so the collaboration with TMAS is an exciting step. It’s also been exciting to see a solid case made for drug checking in an ABC 7.30 Report story earlier this week, and that dance music community inthemix is keeping up the call for change within the scene. Momentum is building and with it, power. Help make the change you want this year!