Labor left MP calls for drug decriminalisation

A FIRST-TERM Sydney MP has used her podium time at the Labor state conference to call for a ban on sniffer dogs at music festivals.

Summer Hill MP Jo Haylen said the government had lost the war on drugs and needed a more practical approach to minimising risk, including allowing free drug testing booths at festivals.

"Kids smoking pot or taking pills at music festivals won't go away," she said.

"Rather than ruining lives with a criminal record or, worse still, leaving people to take risks on their own, let's be brave.

"Let's introduce amnesty bins and pill testing at festivals so we're not putting people at risk.

"Let's retire sniffer dogs so we're not unnecessarily targeting vulnerable people on our streets."

Ms Haylen went as far as calling for possession and use of illegal drugs to be decriminalised to get users "out of cop cars and into the health system".

The controversial call came amid new research revealing the number of ecstasy users appearing in NSW hospitals has almost doubled in the past six years.

An ABC study of patient data found there were 413 ecstasy-related presentations in 2010 and 814 last year.

Ms Haylen's rallying cry to "put Labor at the vanguard again" - like when it oversaw construction of Kings Cross's first legal heroin injecting room - has put her views on drugs more in line with the Greens than the official Labor party line.

Greens MPs David Shoebridge, Jenny Leong and Mehreen Fahruqi were among signatories of a petition calling for sniffer dogs to be banned from festivals last month.

Another Greens-led petition with more than 12,000 signatures called for an end to roadside drug testing until a fairer system could be used.

Ms Haylen was again leaning to the left of the debate.

"Roadside drug testing hurls people into the legal system for having the most minute traces of drugs in their system, but operates without a shred of evidence to prove it reduces the number of accidents," she said.

The NSW Government, on the other hand, last month threatened to shut down events if last festival season's spate of drug overdoses continued.

Premier Mike Baird said he would bring in more drug screening at festivals and review the permit system to prohibit event organisers from operating if the situation was not kept in check.

Labor's right defeated Ms Haylen's attempt have Labor's drugs policy reviewed and did not allow it to go to a vote.

-APN NEWSDESK



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