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Drug Offences in South Australia

Many of the drug offences in South Australia fall under the Controlled Substances Act 1984, which regulates or bans the manufacture, production, supply, sale or possession of certain drugs. It declares which drugs are drugs of dependence, controlled drugs, prescription drugs, controlled plants and controlled precursors (or ingredients).

The Summary Offences Act 1953 bans the sale of drug equipment. The law distinguishes between producers or suppliers and drug users, who face lesser penalties. Some minor drug offences can be dealt with under drug diversion programs.

Drug-Offences-SA---2

Possession, use or supply

‘Possession’ includes joint possession (where more than one person is involved) and means having control over the disposition of the drug. The possessor must know it’s in their custody and control and that it’s an illegal drug, although it isn’t necessary to know precisely what drug it is.

‘Supplying’ means providing or distributing, or offering to do so, and includes supplying to friends on a social basis.

The maximum penalties are:

Possessing, smoking or consuming cannabis, cannabis resin or oil, or possessing associated equipment $500
Supplying or administering cannabis, cannabis resin or oil to another or possessing it intending to do so $2,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment
Supplying or administering a drug of dependence to another, or possessing such a drug intending to do so $50,000 and/or 10 year’s imprisonment
Trafficking in a prescribed area (usually a licensed premises or entertainment venue) $75,000 and/or 15 year’s imprisonment
Aggravated offence of trafficking in a prescribed area, such as where a criminal organisation or any of its members will benefit $200,000 and/or 25 year’s imprisonment
Trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug $200,000 and/or 25 year’s imprisonment
Aggravated offence of trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug $500,000 and/or life imprisonment
Trafficking a large commercial quantity of a drug $500,000 and/or life imprisonment

Possessing drug of dependence is usually dealt with by assessment panel referral.

Possessing equipment and maximum penalties

‘Prescribed equipment’ in relation to drug offences in South Australia is equipment for hydroponic cannabis cultivation or manufacturing controlled drugs, or instructions for doing so. The maximum penalty for possession of prescribed equipment is $10,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment.

‘Equipment’ means anything used either for preparing to smoke, consume or administer, or for actually smoking, consuming or administering, a controlled drug (except syringes or needles). Maximum penalties for equipment offences are:

Possessing equipment – not for use for cannabis, cannabis resin or oil $2,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment
Selling equipment, or possessing it intending to sell it $10,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment, or $50,000 for a company
Selling equipment, or possessing it intending to sell to a child $20,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment, or $100,000 for a company

Cultivation drug offences in South Australia

‘Cultivate’ means to:

  • plant or transplant any plant cutting, seed or seedling
  • nurture, tend or grow
  • harvest
  • dry harvested plant
  • take part in of these steps, including directing, taking part or participating in, or causing the step to be taken. This includes, in respect of any plant(s), equipment, substances or materials
    • acquiring or storing
    • carrying, transporting, loading and unloading
    • guarding or concealing
    • providing or arranging finance
    • providing or allowing a premises to be used, or jointly occupying a premises.

Maximum penalties – cultivating controlled plants

The maximum penalties for drug offences in South Australia which relate to the cultivation of controlled plants are:

One controlled plant (not cannabis) intending to sell it or any of its products, or knowing someone else intends to $50,000 and/or 10 year’s imprisonment
Less than 5 cannabis plants $1,000 and/or 6 month’s imprisonment
More than 5 cannabis plants, or one plant using artificially enhanced cultivation, or intending to supply or administer any product from it to another $2,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment
Commercial quantity (20) of any controlled plant $200,000 and/or 25 year’s imprisonment
Aggravated offence – commercial quantity (20) of any controlled plant $500,000 and life imprisonment
Large commercial quantity (100) of any controlled plant 500,000 and/or life imprisonment

Manufacturing drugs

‘Manufacturing’ means taking part in any process whereby a drug is extracted, produced or refined. It includes directing, taking part in, or participating in any step, or causing any step to be taken in respect of equipment, substances or materials, including:

  • acquiring or storing
  • carrying, transporting, loading and unloading
  • guarding or concealing
  • providing or arranging finance
  • providing or allowing use of a premises, or jointly occupying a premises.

It includes controlled drug alternatives which:

  • are promoted as a legal alternative to an illegal drug or
  • are sold as an illegal drug but are a different substance or
  • have, are meant to have, or are promoted as having, a similar effect as an illegal drug.

Manufacturing drugs – maximum penalties

The maximum penalties for offences relating to the manufacture of drugs are:

Controlled drug $35,000 and/or 7 year’s imprisonment
Controlled drug for sale $50,000 and/or 10 year’s imprisonment
Aggravated offence – controlled drug for sale $75,000 and/or 15 year’s imprisonment
Commercial quantity controlled drug for sale $200,000 and/or 25 year’s imprisonment
Aggravated offence – commercial quantity controlled drug for sale $500,000 and/or life imprisonment
Large commercial quantity controlled drug for sale $500,000 and/or life imprisonment
Manufacturing, packaging, selling/supplying promoted controlled drug alternative $15,000 and/or 4 year’s imprisonment

Offences involving school zones

‘School Zone’ means the grounds of a primary or secondary school and up to 500 metres from its boundary. Drug offences in South Australia which are carried out in school zones carry a maximum penalty of a $1,000,000 and/or life imprisonment. This includes:

  • selling, supplying, or administering a controlled drug to a child, or possessing it for that purpose
  • selling, supplying, or administering a controlled drug to another within a school zone, or possessing it for any of those purposes.

Prescription drug offences – maximum penalties

Drug offences in South Australia also include prescription drugs:

Possessing a prescription drug not lawfully prescribed to them $10,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment
Forging or altering a prescription, or possessing a forged or altered prescription with the intention of obtaining a prescription drug $15,000 and/or 5 year’s imprisonment
Falsely obtain a prescription drug or a prescription for a drug $10,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment
Give false name or address to a person prescribing or supplying prescription drug $10,000 fine

Supplying volatile solvents

A maximum penalty of $10,000 and/or 2 year’s imprisonment applies for selling or supplying a volatile solvent if it’s suspected the person supplied to intends to:

  • inhale it
  • sell or supply it to another for inhalation
  • buy it for another to inhale, or
  • sell it to someone under 16.

This article reflects the state of the law as at 12 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 gotocourt.com.au.

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