Drug offences are among the most frequently prosecuted crimes in the Australian Capital Territory. Most drug offences are found in chapter 6 of the Criminal Code 2002 or in the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989. The articles linked below explain the most common drug offences in the ACT as well as the potential penalties for those offences.
Drug crimes generally involve the sale, the possession for sale, or the manufacturing of controlled drugs, as well as the possession of controlled drugs for personal use. In simple terms, a controlled drug is one for which a prescription is required. Controlled drugs also include illicit drug for which no prescription can be written. A list of controlled drugs and the quantities that trigger certain punishments can be found in the Criminal Code Regulation 2005. The ACT government recently added a number of synthetic drugs to that list, including drugs sold under the street names Kronic, Bath Salts and N-Bomb.
Similar drug crimes apply to controlled plants. The controlled plant that is usually involved in criminal charges is the cannabis plant from which marijuana is harvested.
Drug Offence Penalties
Penalties are less harsh when a drug is possessed for personal use than when it is intended for sale. The law presumes that a drug is possessed for sale when an accused possesses a “trafficable quantity.” New regulations recently increased the amount of certain drugs an individual in the ACT can possess without triggering the trafficable quantity penalties. For instance, an individual can now possess up to 10 grams of Ecstasy or 6 grams of cocaine for personal use without facing a presumption that the drugs are possessed with the intent to sell them.
Drug penalties increase when larger quantities are sold, possessed for sale, or manufactured. “Commercial quantities” can lead to lengthy prison sentences while “large commercial quantities” carry the potential for a life sentence. Our articles on specific drug crimes give examples of those quantities for controlled drugs that are commonly involved in criminal charges.
Cannabis in the ACT
Some people have the false impression that it is legal to use, possess, grow, or even sell marijuana (cannabis) in the ACT. All of those acts remain illegal.
The possession of a relatively small amount of marijuana for personal use is treated as a civil offence in the ACT. That means the punishment is a fine with no criminal conviction. Civil offenses apply to the possession of:
- Up to 25 grams of marijuana
- 1 or 2 cannabis plants, unless they were grown hydroponically or by using artificial light
- Selling marijuana is still a crime. So is growing more than two plants, or growing any plants using any source of light other than the sun.
You need a lawyer
If you are charged with a drug offence in the ACT, the penalties can be harsh. There may, however, be defences that can be asserted to avoid a conviction or to minimize the consequences. You should contact a criminal defence lawyer immediately if you are arrested for a drug offence, or if you have been contacted by the police or believe you may be suspected of a drug crime.