Would Drug Legalisation Reduce Fatalities? Tragedy at the “A State of Trance” Music Festival

For most revellers, the “A State of Trance” music festival in Sydney was a chance to let loose and enjoy an outstanding line up featuring some of the world’s leading trance artists.

But for some partygoers, the weekend ended on a sour note, with up to 40 persons charged with drug possession and drug supply at the 8-hour-long late night festival.

One man was allegedly caught with 130 ecstasy pills, whist another was reportedly found with 98 pills.

Sadly, five people were taken to hospital after reportedly suffering drug overdoses.

And tragically, a 19-year-old man died after losing consciousness on the dance floor.

Police believe the man was involved in a competition to see which of his friends could ‘pop’ the most pills.

The young man’s death is the latest in a number of drug-related fatalities at music festivals in recent years, following on from the highly publicised death of 19-year-old Georgina Bartter at the Harbourlife festival held in Sydney late last year.

Ms Bartter apparently suffered a rare allergic reaction after ingesting a number of ‘purple speaker’ ecstasy pills at the festival.

Her best friend, Rebecca Hannibal, was recently charged with one count of supply prohibited drug, with police alleging that Ms Hannibal purchased the pills off a friend before giving them to Ms Bartter.

She was granted bail after appearing in Downing Centre Local Court in February.

Meanwhile, police have charged a 19-year-old Willoughby man who is alleged to have provided Ms Hannibal with the drugs.

Matthew Forti was charged with two counts of drug supply after police searched his home and located various drugs.

He was granted conditional bail at Central Local Court today and will return to court on March 25.

Should Drugs be Legalised?

The increasing number of drug-related deaths has once again sparked discussion as to whether or not prohibited drugs should be legalised.

Those who support legalisation propose that by allowing the government to regulate what goes into drugs such as ecstasy, many drug-related deaths could be avoided.

It is a commonly known that ecstasy, the popular ‘party drug,’ can sometimes only contain a small amount of MDMA, with the rest of the pill composed of toxic fillers such as cleaning products.

A report released by Australian researchers in 2012 recommended legalising ecstasy and giving the government free reign over supplies of both ecstasy and cannabis.

It proposed that the government establish a means of distributing the drugs to persons aged over 16, with those who take advantage of the program supported by counselling and treatment programs.

This would also allow the government to control exactly what goes into drugs, and ensure that they aren’t filled with potentially-lethal chemicals.

The authors of the paper argue that the number of drug-related deaths, coupled with a huge increase in the amount of illicit drugs seized by police, suggests that current laws simply aren’t working.

These views are shared by Anne-Marie Cockburn; mother of UK teenager Martha Fernback, who passed away in 2013 after suffering a drug-induced cardiac arrest.

Ms Cockburn believes that regulation of recreational drugs may have saved her daughter’s life.

She is actively campaigning to have drugs regulated in the United Kingdom and hopes that regulation, coupled with a better drug education program, may prevent further deaths.

Those who support drug regulation also argue that it would have the added advantage of potentially dismantling the illicit drug market.

Recent trends towards the decriminalisation of marijuana in the United States have reportedly had a significant impact on disrupting the activities of illegal drug cartels there.

But drug legalisation is a highly contentious issue, and it seems that major Australian political parties are highly reluctant to risk popularity by tackling the issues head-on, despite mounting evidence that punitive approaches are an ineffective waste of tax-payer money.

Ugur Nedim About Ugur Nedim
Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney’s Leading Firm of Criminal & Drug Defence Lawyers.

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