There is something of a debate going on about “Pill Testing“.
Recreational drugs can be covertly cut with poisonous or “filler” substances. Uncertainty about strength and purity can lead to accidental overdoses. Pill testing exposes what a tablet really contains and how pure it is.
The basic aim is to enable recreational drug users to make informed decisions about what substances they take.
Now there are all manner of recreational drugs – alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine come to mind. These recreational drugs, however, are not what people have in mind.
The challenge for the nanny state is as follows: Nanny has determined that there is a category of recreational drug that should not be consumed at all. To be fair – Nanny has done so because these drugs are harmful. The informed decision, according to Nanny, is to not consume them at all. It seems counter-intuitive then for Nanny to permit testing to determine whether these recreational drugs are “safe” to consume or not. Here Gladys Berejiklian is being entirely consistent.
Until this week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was strongly opposed to pill testing, holding a no-tolerance for substance use view in how to tackle the war on drugs.
But – there are unintended consequences to prohibition. One of those unintended consequences is that harmful products become more harmful, and are often consumed in harmful ways. Herein lays the problem: Nanny advocates harm reduction through abstinence. Hence the ban. If harm reduction through improved quality, quality control and reduction of information asymmetry were the policy objective then legalisation should be the policy being advocated.
Condoning and licencing criminal behaviour is always poor policy. That is what pill testing amounts to. Government should rather legalise recreational drug use* and allow the (legal) private sector to handle quality control issues.
*The challenge being which drugs should be legalised? All? Some? I have no easy answer – but I would begin by considering legalising those recreational drugs that are in widespread consumption.