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Drug Offences in the ACT

The laws covering drug offences in the ACT are the Criminal Code 2002, the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989, and the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008. Under these Acts, it is an offence to possess, administer (to yourself or someone else), cultivate, sell, give away or exchange illegal drugs. This article deals with drug offences in the ACT.


Offences involving ‘possession’ relate to the custody or control of the drug. They do not require that the drug is in the physical possession of a person. It is enough if, for example, the drug is found on premises the person controls, or in their car.

Penalties for possession depend upon the type of drug involved and the quantity involved.

  • For a simple cannabis offence, police may choose to issue a Simple Cannabis Offence Notice. The penalty is a fine only. A Simple Cannabis Offence is possession of up to 50 grams of dried cannabis or two cannabis plants that are not artificially cultivated, provided the police believe the drug is only for personal use. If the fine is paid within 60 days, no criminal conviction is recorded. If it is not, criminal proceedings are commenced. The maximum penalty for a simple offence if dealt with by the court is $150. A criminal conviction will also be imposed.
  • Possession of other controlled drugs carries a maximum penalty of a fine of 50 penalty units and/or two years imprisonment.

Sale or supply of a prohibited substance

It’s an offence under section 164 of the Drugs of Dependence Act to sell a prohibited substance. A substance is sold or supplied if:

  • it is bartered or exchanged;
  • it is given to someone in the belief that they would do something in return, or
  • the owner or possessor agrees to sell.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of 500 penalty units or imprisonment for five years.


‘Cultivation’ of drugs includes engaging in, exercising direction or control over, or arranging or providing finance for:

  • planting a seed, seedling or cutting of a plant
  • transporting a plant
  • tending to growing the plant
  • guarding or hiding the plant, or
  • harvesting the plant.

If the plants are cannabis plants and the person has one or two plants for personal use only it may be dealt with as a Simple Cannabis Offence. Otherwise, the maximum penalty is a fine of 50 penalty units and/or two years imprisonment.

A person may be guilty of the offence of cultivating a controlled plant for the purposes of selling even if they do not intend to sell the plant themselves, but believe that another person intends to either sell the plant, or sell a product made from the plant. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

Administration drug offences in the ACT

It is an offence to administer a drug or declared substance to any person or animal without being authorised to do so. This includes:

  • a medicine
  • a prohibited substance
  • a poison that is classed as being of dangerous, low, or moderate harm
  • any other proscribed substance.

The maximum penalty is one year of imprisonment.

Manufacturing and precursors

It’s an offence to possess, manufacture or sell a controlled precursor and/or to possess equipment that is used to manufacture drugs, including pill presses. Precursors are the raw chemical components used in making a controlled drug. Some are present in products that are readily available from pharmacies, supermarkets and hardware stores. They can be extracted to manufacture controlled drugs, particularly amphetamines.

  • Possessing or manufacturing a controlled precursor carries a maximum penalty ranging from seven years imprisonment to 25 years imprisonment.
  • It is an offence to sell a controlled precursor, if you believe that it is being purchased with the intention that any of it will be used to manufacture a controlled drug. The maximum penalty ranges from seven years imprisonment to 25 years imprisonment.


‘Trafficking’ in relation to drug offences in the ACT means to be part of an organised commercial activity involving repeated transactions of certain controlled drugs. It includes any of the following, whether performed by the person themselves for their own gain, or under the belief that someone else intends to sell the drug for gain:

  • selling a controlled drug
  • preparing a controlled drug for supply
  • transporting the controlled drug
  • guarding or concealing the drugs, or
  • possessing the drug intending to sell it.

Controlled drugs are listed under Schedule 1 of the Criminal Code Regulation 2002. For cannabis, the maximum penalties range from three years imprisonment to life imprisonment. For a controlled drug other than cannabis the penalties range from 10 years imprisonment to life imprisonment.

Child protection

There are a number of offences for the protection of children. They include procuring a child for the purpose of trafficking drugs and supplying drugs to a child for the child to sell. Penalties for these offences range from fines to imprisonment for life.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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