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Drugs

New South Wales

Drug Use

Drug Posession

Drug Cultivation

Drug Trafficking

Drug Court

Cautions and Searches

Help and Information

Legal Advice


Drugs

Experimenting with drugs doesn't always mean that you’ll become addicted. But there is no 'SAFE' level of drug use. All drugs can harm you, not just the illegal ones. So it's best to have all the information you can about drugs and their effects. That way you can make informed choices about drugs and being safe.

The drugs we’ll be talking about here are common illicit drugs like marijuana, amphetamines, ecstasy, LSD, cocaine, heroin, methadone etc. Check out other 'Law Topics' on this site for info on alcohol and smoking.

If you’ve just been charged with a drugs offence, make sure you get legal advice as soon as possible because the courts treat drug offences very seriously.

What can happen to you...?

At school: All schools, both government and private, have rules on drugs. Generally, being involved in drugs is taken very seriously at school and you could be suspended or expelled. The School might also contact the Police.

The police: Basically, the police can charge you with 5 types of drugs offences:

  • Use
  • Possession
  • Cultivation  
  • Trafficking
  • Drug Driving

Drug use

Whatever way you do it, whether it’s smoking, inhaling, injecting or swallowing, using an illegal drug is an offence. To be guilty of this offence, the Police have to prove that you consumed a prohibited drug. They can only get a doctor to conduct a blood test after you’ve been arrested. So most of the time, the Police will rely on people admitting they’ve taken drugs. They may arrest you if they think you are acting weird and suspect it is because you have taken a drug/s.

It is an offence to help someone else use drugs by injecting them or putting drugs in their mouth or to simply permit someone else to use drugs. It is also an offence to let someone give you drugs or help you use drugs.

The law says that you can possess and use drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor.  It is crime to use illegal drugs without a prescription.

The law says that you can use a small amount of drugs if you’re inside a licensed injecting centre. There’s one medically supervised injecting centre at Sydney located in Darlinghurst.

Even if you don’t use any drugs yourself, you could still get into trouble with the police if you have a party and tell people that they can use drugs at your place.

The police can also arrest you if you’ve got drug related equipment like spoons and swabs if it may look like you are going to use drugs sometime soon. Police have to show that you intend to use this equipment to take drugs, not just that you used this stuff in the past for taking drugs.

It is NOT a crime to have a needle or syringe. Having a needle or syringe does not mean you are doing drugs because you could have a medical condition like diabetes where you need to have injections.

If you do get convicted of any of the crimes relating to drug use, you could get a fine of up to $2,200 or 2 years imprisonment or both.  If the police consider that the amount that you used was only small, you may be let off with a warning or a caution.
 

Drug possession

It is an offence to possess illegal drugs. These are the offences where the police catch you with drugs in your pockets or in your bag or room etc. These are the most common drug offences. The police have to show beyond reasonable doubt that you had the drugs and you knew that illegal drugs were in your possession.

But if there are drugs in your house and somebody else has control of them (i.e. they own them & have the right to use them), you will not be guilty of possession. 

There’s nothing wrong with possessing prescription only drugs if the doctor gave them to you because you’re sick or you need them for a medical reason. It’s only illegal to possess prescription only drugs (like Serepax or Valium) if you don’t have a doctor’s prescription for them.

If the police charge you with any of these possession offence and you get convicted you could be hit with a $2,200 fine or 2 years in prison or both.  If the amount you have in your possession was only small and depending on how serious the drug is considered to be, you may be let off with a warning or a caution.

Depending on what type of drug it is and how much you have of the drug in your possession, the police could charge you with drug trafficking if they consider that it is more than you were planning to use yourself. Drug trafficking is a more serious offence and has more serious penalties.

Did you know? . . . You can be found guilty of possession even if you just take custody & control for a moment (e.g. accepting a joint being passed around).


Drug cultivation

It is an offence to cultivate (grow), take part in the cultivation of, possess or supply an illegal plant, like Cannabis (Marijuana). These are the offences where you actually do the gardening stuff involved in growing the marijuana bushes or do the chemical stuff involved in actually making the tablets. ‘Cultivating’ includes things like planting the seeds, watering the plants, shading them from the sun and picking the leaves etc. Both the cultivation of prohibited plants and the manufacture of prohibited drugs are illegal.

The amount of drugs you have determines how much the fine will be or how long the prison term will be. For example, if you grow 50 Marijuana plants you could be fined $220,000 and/or go to jail for 10 years. But if you grow 1000 marijuana plants (or 200 plants inside using special equipment), then the fine is much bigger - $550,000 and you could be in jail for twice as long.

Here’s another example: If you make 5 grams of ecstasy tablets you could get a maximum fine of $220,000 and 15 years jail, but if you make 2 kilos of tablets then the fine is much higher - $550,000, and jail for life. So the point is, the more drugs you grow or make, the more trouble you could be in. 

 

Drug trafficking

The police can charge you with ‘trafficking’ if you supply (sell or give away) illegal drugs or offer to supply them for someone else, or agree to supply illegal drugs to someone even if you don’t go through with the actual sale.

You can also be guilty of trafficking if:

  • You get the drugs ready to be sold (e.g. by cutting them or putting them in plastic bags);
  • You arrange to meet a buyer;
  • You make drugs that you are planning to sell in the future.
  • Permit a drug sale to take place.

If you have a large amount of drugs on you or at your place, the police will probably think that you were not going to use all the drugs yourself, and that you must have been planning to sell them to other people. If your drugs are over a certain weight (even if you say that they were for your personal use), then the court will presume that you were supplying unless you can prove otherwise. This is called ‘deemed supply’. The particular quantity of drugs is called the ‘trafficable quantity’ and the weight varies from drug to drug. Here are some trafficable quantities:

  • Cannabis (leaf or heads) - 300 grams
  • Cocaine – 3 grams
  • Ecstasy (MDMA) – 0.75 grams
  • Heroin – 3 grams
  • LSD – 0.003 grams or 15 tabs


So if you have these amounts or MORE, it will be assumed that you are guilty of the more serious crime of “drug trafficking”.  It is then up to you to prove to the court that you were not intending to ‘supply’ the drugs (i.e. that they were for your personal use), or you obtained the drugs by medical prescription.

You are still guilty of supplying an illegal drug, even if the ‘drugs’ aren’t actually drugs. For example, if you convince someone to buy ‘heroin’ but it’s actually icing sugar, you are still guilty of supplying the illegal drug, heroin.

Large-scale supply

Basically, the more drugs the police find, the more trouble you could be in.
There are different categories of offences depending on how much the drugs weigh.

Here are the maximum penalties for different amounts of heroin or amphetamine. If you supply to someone under 16 years then the below penalties are increased substantially.
 

  • Less than 5 grams of heroin or amphetamine – a maximum fine of $2,200 or 2 years imprisonment;
  • 5 grams or more, but less than 250 grams of heroin or amphetamine – a maximum fine of $220,000 or 15 years imprisonment;
  • 250 grams or more, but less than 1 kilogram of heroin or amphetamine – a maximum fine of $385,000 or 20 years imprisonment;
  • 1 kilogram or more of heroin or amphetamine – a maximum fine of $550,000 or 20 years imprisonment.

Drug court

There are three Drug courts in NSW, at Sydney, Parramatta and the Central Coast but you must be over 18 to apply. The area you live in NSW may also affect if you are allowed to go to a drug court.  Offenders are offered the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitation program like counselling or therapy, instead of a punishment like a jail sentence.

An offender can be referred to the Drug Court if they:

  • plead guilty;
  • have a serious drug problem (not alcohol);
  • agree to the program and any conditions;
  • are charged with a offence which is ‘highly likely’ to lead to a jail sentence. 


Cautions and searches

The police can decide not to charge you if you are under 18 years old for minor drugs offences. Instead of charging you, the police can issue a:
 
Formal police caution - (relatively minor offences, such as possessing no more than 0.0008 grams of LSD, or possessing a bong to smoke illegal drugs, can be dealt with by a caution if the police choose. The caution is not given on the spot but usually occurs a week or so later at a police station or elsewhere. The police must accept that the drugs are for your own use rather than supply, you must admit guilt, and there must be no other offences committed or suspected that would require you to go to court anyway). A caution may only be given up to three times;

Warning – (this is less formal than a caution and issued on the spot. You do not have to admit guilt but you must supply your name & address);

Conference – (a meeting between the offender and the victim to discuss the impact of the offence & work out the outcome. This is rare for drug offences).

‘Taking part’ in an offence

Helping out your mates or someone you know by letting them use your property to sell, make or grow drugs, or arranging a meeting or being involved in organising to sell or make or grow drugs could get you into trouble.
 
Did you know? . . .  That to knowingly ‘take part’ in the supply, cultivation or manufacture of illegal drugs is an offence.

 

Personal searches

The police can search you or your car without arresting you if they ‘reasonably suspect’ that you might possess drugs.
 
If you are searched, make sure you say clearly that you do not want to be searched, & ask for that fact to be written down – this makes it harder for the police to claim that they had your consent to conduct the search.The police can also search you after arrest. 

 

Drug Driving

You cannot drive while under the influence of a drug or alcohol . Police in New South Wales have the power to randomly stop drivers and take a saliva swab to test for drugs. The test is done in two parts. The first test is done by the police and then they send the test away to a lab for a second test. So, even if your test shows as negative it could still be found as positive later by the lab. It’s important to know that the offence to drive under the influence of drugs is not decided by the amount you have in your system – it is if ANY is found in your system. This means that if you have taken drugs several days earlier your test could show as positive.

If you are convicted of driving under the influence of a drug you could be charged up to $1100 if it’s your first offence or $2200 for second offences. You could also lose your license for up to 6 months or if it is your second offence up to 12 months.

Penalties for drug driving may be different if you are on a restricted licence. If you are on ‘L’ or ‘P’ plates and have a question about drug driving please send us a Lawmail. You can also read more about driving under the influence of alcohol on our Cars and Driving pages.


If you have a question that we haven’t answered here please send us a Lawmail.


Last Updated 13 March 2015