No matter whether your relationship with illegal drugs is you have never used them and never will, you are someone who has gone through drug rehab, you have helped a loved one escape their drug addiction, or you may even have been in prison for drugs offenses,  your knowledge of drugs laws is going to be different to everyone else’s.

It is true to say that if most people were to be quizzed on drug laws in Australia, most would fail the test. That is not said as a criticism but to point out the fact that unless you or someone you care for has an issue with drug use or addiction or you work within the legal profession, there is little need for you to know the intricacies of drug laws in this country.

However, as with any subject, it does no harm to know the basics, so we have created a simple and easy-to-follow guide to drug laws in Australia. We hope you find it helpful, and even more so, we hope you are never on the wrong side of any of those laws.

Legal vs Illegal Drugs

Drugs that are legal in Australia include nicotine, alcohol, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter drugs, such as cold remedies. Not simply because a drug is legal, it does not mean it is not harmful, mainly if it is used to excess. In addition, some restrictions apply regarding who can use them, where they can be used, how much can be consumed, and how they can be obtained. Examples include:

  • Minimum age limits on alcohol and nicotine
  • Location restrictions on smoking and drinking
  • Limits on alcohol and some medications when driving or using certain types of machinery
  • Compulsory health warnings on packaging
  • Prescriptions from a doctor are required

Illegal drugs include cannabis/marijuana, MDMA (ecstasy), amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin. These are neither regulated nor is their use legal, although some variations relating to the medical use of cannabis exist from state to state. Even with this, a doctor’s prescription is usually required. Otherwise, using or having any of these illegal drugs is likely to be considered an offense under Australian drug laws.

Common Drug Offences

The most common drug offenses in Australia include:

  • Possession
  • Possession of equipment designed for the use, growing, or manufacturing of illegal drugs
  • Manufacturing illegal drugs
  • Importing illegal drugs
  • Supplying or selling illegal drugs, aka ‘trafficking.’

Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs

A further offence that can lead to a drug conviction is driving whilst under the influence of drugs. A key difference with this offence compared to drunk driving is that, whilst drunk driving allows for a small amount of alcohol to be traceable within your system, under drug law, the limit is zero. In other words, merely having a trace of an illegal drug in your system is enough to be charged with an offence. Penalties include a driving ban, a fine, or imprisonment.

Drugs At Work

Drug and employment laws give employers the right to test their employees for drug use. To do so, the employer must have a drug policy that states the frequency and the type of drug tests. Some employment types have compulsory drug testing, including construction, transport, and aviation.

The Australian Laws Which Apply To Drugs

The following is a list of the Federal drugs legislation which applies in Australia.

  • 1956: Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations
  • 1958: Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations
  • 1967: Narcotic Drugs Act
  • 1995: Criminal Code Act
  • 2016: Narcotic Drugs (Licence Charges) Act
  • 2016: Narcotic Drugs (Licence Charges) Regulation
  • 2016: Narcotic Drugs Regulation
  • 2016: Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill
  • 2016; Narcotic Drugs Legislation Amendment Act

Penalties For Drug Crime

We could write another article on this, given that every state has its own penalties for drug convictions. Suffice it to say they range from fines of a few thousand dollars and imprisonment of up to 2 years for possession offences to fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars plus a term of up to life in prison for the manufacturing and trafficking of illegal drugs.