Hundreds test drugs at Easter weekend music festival

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 healthcare and harm reduction workers were also on deck to provide information about the dangers of drug use.

Of the 210 substances tested, approximately 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.

File picture of pills from a drug haul
A pill testing service has detected higher-risk synthetic substances that were sold as other drugs.

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 southeast 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.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store