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Drug Offences in the ACT

The laws covering drug offences in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) are the Criminal Code 2002, the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989, and the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008.

These laws state that it is an offence to possess, administer (to yourself or someone else), cultivate, sell, give away or exchange illegal drugs.

Drug Offences in the Australian Capital Territory


In the context of drug offences in the ACT, ‘possession’ relates to custody or control of the drug. It does not require that the drug is in the physical possession of the 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.

  • For a simple cannabis offence, police may choose to issue a Simple Cannabis Offence Notice. The penalty is $100. A Simple Cannabis Offence is possession of up to 50 grams of dried cannabis or 2 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 and a criminal conviction.
  • Possession of other controlled drugs carries a maximum penalty of $7,500 fine and/or 2 year’s imprisonment.

Selling of a controlled plant

It’s an offence to sell a cannabis plant or other controlled plant. A plant is sold 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.

If the plant is a cannabis plant, the maximum penalty is $45,000 and/or 3 year’s imprisonment.

For any other controlled plant, the maximum penalty is $150,000 and/or 10 year’s imprisonment.


‘Cultivation’ for the purposes of drug offences in the ACT 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 you have 1 or 2 plants for personal use only it may be dealt with as a Simple Cannabis Offence. Otherwise, the maximum penalty is $30,000 and/or 2 year’s 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 a fine of $15,000 and/or 1 year’s 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 $100,000 and/or 7 year’s imprisonment to $375,000 and 25 year’s 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 $105,000 and/or 7 year’s imprisonment to $375,000 and/or 25 year’s imprisonment.


Selling, supplying or participating in the sale or supply of a drug of dependence or a prohibited substance carries a maximum penalty of $75,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years.


‘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 $45,000 and/or 3 year’s imprisonment to life imprisonment. For a controlled drug other than cannabis the penalties range from $150,000 and/or 10 year’s imprisonment to life imprisonment.

Drug equipment

The occupier or proprietor of a wholesale or retail outlet may not display a drug pipe. This is a device, or components that make a device, used for the purpose of smoking or inhaling a controlled drug. It is usually called a hash pipe, a bong or an ice pipe. The maximum penalty is a fine of $7,500.

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 $5,000 fines and/or 5 year’s imprisonment up to life.

This article reflects the state of the law as at 13 April 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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