A pro-cannabis reform group has slammed lobbyists seeking to remove references to public education from a bill to reform cannabis laws.

Releaf said that the organisations petitioning parliament were seeking to turn back the block and “promoting a culture of ignorance and stigma” with that request.

The lobby group issued the statement one day after dozens of NGOs and lobby groups banded together to petition parliament in a last-ditch attempt to force changes to a reform bill that is now just one parliamentary vote away from becoming law.

The reform will allow cannabis users to carry up to 7g of the substance on them without fear of prosecution or arrest, grow up to four plants in a concealed area at home and buy cannabis bud or seeds from cannabis associations. People with cannabis possession-related convictions will have those expunged from their criminal record.

In their petition, the organisations listed six changes that they want to see to the bill in its current form. One of those changes is to remove public education from the remit of a cannabis authority to be established.

Critics of the bill have argued that having an authority that regulates cannabis also teaching about harm reduction would lead to mixed messaging and undermine the ultimate aim of discouraging people from taking drugs.

On Wednesday, the pro-cannabis side hit back.

“We cannot understand why these same organisations that so frequently receive taxpayer funds to carry out prevention educational programs as deemed fit by their own philosophical standing, want to impose their moralistic, exclusionary and outdated approaches to drug education,” Releaf said.

Call for NAO to audit taxpayer-funded rehab services

It said that the National Audit Office should be roped in to audit prevention educational programs run privately by rehabilitation services, “to better understand their impact and quantify their effect on levels of use and public health”.

Many of those rehabilitation service providers were among the petition’s signatories.

Releaf said that the bill before parliament sought to address cannabis consumption within parameters permitted by UN drug conventions and “in line with latest UN agencies approach to drug use.”

It said that while petitioners were free to express disagreement, the provision of health-related educational material is an essential public health and human rights measure.

“We invite all those that continue to use political leverage to advance their personal agendas, to look closer at developments in international drug prevention efforts and educational outreach,” it said.

MPs are due to vote on the third reading of the cannabis reform bill on Tuesday, December 14.

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