Penalties for drugs can be difficult to understand. For some offences young people under 18 can be punished as an adult. If you have a question about a particular drug offence or drugs in general please send us a Lawmail.
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 info 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 4 different types of drug crimes:
3.Production (manufacture or cultivation)
4. Supply and Trafficking
Whatever way you do it, whether its smoking, inhaling, injecting or swallowing, using an illegal drug is an offence. Illegal drugs include marijuana, amphetamines, ecstasy, hallucinogens, cocaine and heroin. If you do get arrested for using illegal drugs, the police have to prove that you consumed an illegal drug. They can only get a doctor to conduct a blood test after they’ve arrested you. So, most of the time, the police will rely on people admitting that they’ve taken drugs. It is also a crime to let someone give drugs to you or for you to inject drugs into someone else or put drugs into their mouth.
Even if you don’t use any drugs yourself, you could still get into trouble with the police if you let people use drugs at your place. The police can also arrest you if they find stuff like bongs or scales for using drugs, or if they find injecting stuff like spoons and swabs that has in or on it traces of a prohibited drug. BUT it is not a crime to have a needle or syringe in your possession if you have a medical condition where you need to have injections.
You can also get into trouble if the police catch you at a mate’s place where people are smoking cocaine or heroin. Even if you don’t smoke yourself, you could be fined up to $2,000 and/or have to go to jail for up to 2 years just for being there.
If you get convicted of a crime relating to drug use, you could get a fine of up to $2, 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both. You may also receive a criminal record which will make it hard for you to get a job, credit card or travel overseas.
It is a crime to possess illegal drugs. You may be charged with an offence if the police find illegal drugs in your possession (e.g. in your pockets or in your bag or room). Possession of drugs is one of the most common drug offences. You could be found guilty of possessing drugs if it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew that illegal drugs were in your possession. If police find illegal drugs that belong to someone else in your house and you don’t have control over those drugs, you will not be guilty of possession.
There’s nothing wrong with possessing prescription only drugs if a doctor prescribed them for you because you’re sick. It’s only illegal to possess prescription only drugs if you don’t have a doctor’s prescription for them.
If you are found guilty of a simple drug possession offence you could face a $2,000 fine or 2 years in prison or both. More serious penalties apply for certain types of drugs or if you are found with a large amount in your possession.
Did you know? . . . You can be found guilty of possession even if you just take custody and control of the drug for a moment (e.g. accepting a joint being passed around).
It is an offence to cultivate (grow) or take part in the cultivation of an illegal plant, like Cannabis (Marijuana). These are the type of 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. Growing prohibited plants (like marijuana) and making prohibited drugs is illegal. This includes growing plants for yourself, and growing them with the intention to sell them.
Did you know….? Just being in possession of something that has been used for the manufacture of any illegal drug or drug making apparatus is an offence.
If the police find scales or other stuff for using or making drugs then you may be fined up to $36,000 and put in jail for up to 3 years. It is also illegal to let anyone else grow, make or prepare illegal drugs in your house, even if you are not involved.
The quantity of drugs you are making will affect how much the fine will be or how long the prison term will be. Basically, the more drugs the police find, the more trouble you could be in. If they only find a small amount of drugs, you will get a smaller fine and/or prison sentence than if they find lots of drugs.
The punishment for growing or making drugs to sell them can be a fine of up to $100,000 or as much as 25 years in jail, or both.
Did you know…..? If you agree with a friend to grow or make drugs you could also face a fine of up to $75,000 or as much as 20 years in jail or both - even if you don’t go through with it.
If you encourage another person to grow or make drugs, you may face up to half the same punishment as if you had committed the crime yourself!
If you are accused of taking part in planning a drug offence, you could also be charged with a drug offence even if you didn’t end up committing the crime yourself.
The police can charge you with a ‘serious drug offence’ if you sell illegal drugs or offer to or intend to sell them to someone else (even if you don’t go through with the actual sale).
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.
The particular weight varies from drug to drug, for example:
- Cannabis - 100 grams;
- Cocaine – 2 grams;
- Ecstasy (MDMA) – 2 grams;
- Heroin – 2 grams;
- LSD – 0.002 grams.
So if you have these amounts or MORE, it will be assumed that you intended to sell or supply the drugs. 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).
Basically, the more drugs the police find, the more trouble you could be in. You could face a $100,000 fine or up to 25 years in jail or both if you are convicted of any of these offences. If you are caught with only cannabis, the maximum penalty is $20,000 or 10 years jail.
The Court can declare you to be a “drug trafficker” if:
- You are convicted of 2 or more serious drug offences, even if some of those offences occurred in another state;
- You are convicted of a serious drug offence where the amount of drugs involved was over a certain weight (e.g. 3kg of cannabis, 28 grams of cocaine, 0.01 gram LSD, 28 grams of Ecstasy (MDMA)).
Being declared a “drug trafficker” is very serious. It means that all of your property can be permanently taken away by police, including any property which you have given away to other people.
Cautions & Searches
The police can decide not to charge you for minor drug offences.
Under the Cannabis Intervention Requirement (CIR) scheme, police can decide to give you a CIR notice to people caught with a small amount of cannabis or with possession of a smoking implement containing traces of cannabis. If you have been given a CIR you will be required to book and complete a Cannabis Intervention Session (CIS) with a drug councillor within 28 days.
In some cases police may also be able to issue an All Drug Diversion notice to people caught with small quantities of illegal drugs other than cannabis. The notice will require you to attend three treatment sessions within 30 days with a qualified drug counsellor. An All Drug Diversion notice can only be issued once and the police officer who issues the notice must also be satisfied the drugs were being used for personal use.
If the police decide to do one of these things, you will not have a criminal conviction recorded against you.
Police have the power to search you if you consent to a search. If you do not reply to a request to search you, then you have not consented. You may also withdraw your consent at any time before or during the search by informing an officer or person searching you. If you do not consent you should stay calm and ask the legal power they are relying on to carry out the search. You should also make sure that you say clearly that you do not want to be searched, and 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 search you or your car your consent if they ‘reasonably suspect’ that you might possess drugs. Reasonably suspect means they had a reason to suspect something at the time even if it ends up not being true.
Did you know? . . . . . It is illegal to drive while under the influence of any drugs, even marijuana. If you do, you could lose your licence (either for a number of months or permanently) and be fined or sent to prison.
You cannot drive while under the influence of a drug or alcohol. Police in Western Australia have the power to randomly stop drivers and assess them for drug impairment. This can include an oral swab test (also known as an oral fluid test). The test is done in two parts. The first test is done by the police and if the test shows positive for drugs they can ask you to have your blood or urine tested by a medical practitioner. It is an offence to refuse the test and you can be arrested.
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.
The penalties for drug driving vary according to what kind of licence you have. If you are driving on a restricted licence or special class or licence and would like to know more about the penalties for drug driving please send us a Lawmail.
While some people suffer nothing more than a bad ‘come down,’ drug use can mess up your head, causing depression or suicidal thoughts.
If you’re worried about your drug use or a friend’s drug use, you can:
- Check out the Australian Drug Information Network (http://www.adin.com.au) for general information on drugs and to also find out what services are available in Western Australia.
- Call the Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1 800 (free call) or visit their website.
If you have a question about drugs that we haven’t answered here please send us a Lawmail.
This page was last updated on 13 April 2015.