Advocates, academics and the ACT Greens claim federal intervention could be behind Thursday's "shock" decision to shelve an Australian-first pill testing trial at Canberra's Spilt Milk Festival.
Last month, Canberra Liberal Jeremy Hanson wrote to his federal counterparts raising concerns about the free testing of illicit drugs at the Commonwealth Park event, which was to be trialled and funded by the Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events consortium, after it received approval from the ACT government days earlier.
On Thursday, Spilt Milk organisers Kicks Entertainment announced the consortium had not handed over the documents needed in their application to hold the festival on federal land in November, and so the trial could not go ahead.
But Gino Vumbaca, of the consortium, said the additional documents had only been requested on Wednesday afternoon. A team of lawyers had since been working "around the clock" to prepare them for the National Capital Authority (NCA), the federal agency which oversees Commonwealth Park.
"Less than 24 hours later, we got a call saying we'd missed the deadline we didn't even know we had," He said.
"We were complying with every request, jumping through every hoop."
He said phone calls to the NCA for more information about which documents to provide had gone unreturned.
"I don't understand why our little medical trial can't be considered separately, given its just been announced. We don't think a sell-out event should be held to ransom by this."
The consortium's Dr David Caldicott said he believed the problem was a change of heart rather than a document deficit, and political pressure from the Canberra Liberals was to blame.
"We don't hold the organiser responsible, he's a local business owner who's obviously been put under huge pressure.
"So really it looks like there's been an intervention in a medical pilot from federal agencies at the behest of local politicians because of ideology," he said.
In a letter to federal ministers Greg Hunt and Fiona Nash on September 28, Mr Hanson wrote the festival was "imminent" and noted that the "the Minister may give the [NCA] directions in writing".
Canberra Liberal Vicki Dunne previously told the ACT assembly the trial could be stopped by the Commonwealth as the event was held on federal land.
On Friday, ACT Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury accused Mr Hanson of sabotaging the pill testing trial by "calling up his mates on the hill".
"The action of the Canberra Liberals means [Spilt Milk] is now more dangerous than...if the pill testing trial went ahead," Mr Rattenbury said.
"No one from the NCA, the promoter or anywhere else has yet been able to explain what additional documents are required."
Mr Hanson said he stood by his concerns about the "legal minefield" of pill testing, and some experts questioned the reliability of the method.
"It also appears that the ACT government and the organisers have failed to notify the proper authorities to get proper permission and documentation," he said.
"It gives me no confidence that the ACT Government can conduct a pill test."
A spokesman for Ms Nash said the minister was not involved in the Spilt Milk decision. It is understood she did not respond to Mr Hanson's letter.
Dr Caldicott said the trial would help save lives and was widely supported by the medical community as well as Canberrans more broadly. The Canberra Liberals had repeatedly turned down overtures from the consortium to discuss what it entailed, he said.
"We've already seen eleven overdoses in Newcastle just this weekend, and should anything bad happen [at this festival], well, opponents of this will have blood on their hands."
Dr Caldicott said he didn't believe many Canberrans "would fall for the idea that a group of academics somehow missed some arbitrary deadline".
"Everything we've put forward to date has been enough to persuade the ACT government and ACT Policing to do the trial."
Mr Vumara agreed preparations and training for the trial had been extensive.
"What's [likely] scared them is they requested all this information believing we wouldn't be able to do it and we were," he said.
"We don't want kids to use drugs, we're parents too, but we know they do, and we've seen so many tragic deaths.
"We weren't asking for any money, we were just asking to give it a go and see if it worked in Australia."
Speaking on ABC Radio on Friday morning, NCA chairman Terry Webber said it was his understanding festival organisers had made the decision and no deadline was set for documents being lodged.
The consortium has vowed it will press ahead with the trial at other events, but Spilt Milk documents would still be finalised in the next few days.
"We're not beaten, we'll find festivals that aren't on federal land," Mr Vumara said.
TheNCA and Minister Hunt have been contacted for comment.
Responding to news of the trial's approval last month, Mr Hunt said the Commonwealth did not support pill testing on principle, but the trial was a matter for the territory.
Dr Caldicott said this year was also the 20th anniversary of former Prime Minister John Howard's intervention in a scientific trial into prescription heroin as a treatment for the drug addiction.
"So it is not beyond the current party in power to intervene at a state and territory level for ideological purposes...
"There is real anger among young people over this.
"It puts a lie to the ever present proposition that Australia represents an agile and nimble environment for research."
In a Facebook post overnight, Spilt Milk organisers said they would "keep fighting" to run pill testing trials at the festival and strongly supported the consortium's proposal.