If you are being investigated for, or have been charged with, a drug offence, it is imperative that you seek legal advice. Our team of criminal lawyers have years of experience with drug offence cases, and are able to provide you with prompt, easy-to-follow advice, to allow you to achieve the best possible outcome.

Drug Offence Law Melbourne

In Victoria, drug offences are legislated by the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Drugs Act). The Drugs Act contains offences relating to two types of drugs: those which you cannot possess without a prescription, and those which you cannot possess under any circumstances. The latter includes:

  • Cannabis;
  • Cocaine;
  • Methamphetamine;
  • Heroin; and
  • Some other chemical substances.

Amendments to the Drugs Act added synthetic cannabis, other synthetic drugs and analogues of drugs to the list of drugs of dependence. An analogue is a structurally modified version of a drug.

The Act creates the following major drug offences:

  • Use;
  • Possession;
  • Cultivation;
  • Trafficking; and
  • Conspiracy.

They are each outlined below, along with penalties associated with such offences.

Use of drugs - What's the law in Victoria?

It is illegal to use a drug of dependence. The Drugs Act defines use as smoking, injecting, swallowing, inhaling, or otherwise introducing a drug into a person's body (Sections 70 and 75).

Penalties for drug use in Victoria

The use of cannabis or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) carries a maximum fine of 5 penalty units (about $900 in 2022). You cannot be sentenced to imprisonment for the use of cannabis or THC, even after multiple offences.
The penalties for the use of other drugs can vary greatly. A person may receive a fine of up to 30 penalty units, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. Contact a criminal lawyer about what this may mean for you.


Possession of drugs - What's the law in Victoria?

The legislation and common law determine that someone is in possession of a drug if they have physical control or custody of the drug. Common law means law made in the courts, rather than statute. This definition extends to land or premises occupied by that person, or if the drugs are used, controlled, or enjoyed by the person in any place whatsoever. Exclusions may apply if a person did not know they had the drug or, if they did know, they did not intend to possess the drug.

Penalties drug possession in Victoria

Possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis for personal use incurs a fine only. For larger quantities or other drugs, the fine is greater and the possession may incur a prison sentence of up to one year.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a possession offence, one of our experienced criminal lawyers will be able to explain how the law applies.


Cultivation of drugs - What's the law in Victoria?

To cultivate means to sow, plant, grow, tend, graft, divide, transplant, nurture or harvest. It relates to narcotic plants, including seeds and cuttings, with or without roots. A single one of these acts can constitute the offence. For example, tending can include watering a plant and would constitute the offence under the Drugs Act. Generally, this is in reference to cannabis plants, opium poppies, or coca plants.

Penalties for cultivation of drugs in Victoria

There are a great number of variables within the penalties for cultivating, depending on the type, quantity and intended use of the cultivation.

  • If the Court accepts that the cultivation is for personal use, a person may be fined up to 20 penalty units or sentenced to up to one year imprisonment. The Court may also choose to apply a Bond.
  • Cultivation in relation to a commercial quantity (100+ plants) carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.
  • Cultivation in relation to a large commercial quantity carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

There are some defences available to a person accused of cultivation charges. Speak to our experienced drug offence lawyers to find out whether they may apply in your case.

Trafficking of drugs - What's the law in Victoria?

To traffick drugs means to prepare, sell, manufacture, exchange, possess for the purpose of selling, agreeing to sell, and offering for sale. Generally, drugs given as gifts are not considered to be trafficked.

Drug trafficking offences fall into three categories, depending on the quantity of drug involved. These include:

  • Trafficking;
  • Trafficking in a commercial quantity; and
  • Trafficking in a large commercial quantity.

Drug trafficking may be proved by:

  • Direct evidence: observation or participation in a sale; or
  • Inference: e.g. possession of a quantity of drug much larger than for personal use, possession of a drug packaged for sale, possession of sale paraphernalia such as scales, bags, cash, etc.; or
  • Admission: confession to police.

Penalties for trafficking drugs in Victoria

Victorian laws comprise very heavy penalties for drug trafficking. Some of the maximum penalties are outlined here:

  • Non-commercial quantities: $273,006.00* and/or 15 years imprisonment

  • To a person under 18 years: $364,008.00* and/or 20 years imprisonment

  • Commercial quantity: $455,010.00* and/or 25 years imprisonment

  • Large commercial quantity: $758,350.00* and/or life imprisonment

  • Possess a tablet press or a prescribed precursor chemical: $91,002.00* and/or 5 years imprisonment

  • Possess substance or material, documents or equipment for trafficking a drug: 10 years imprisonment

*the monetary amounts of penalty units are correct at time of publication and are subject to change each financial year.
One of our experienced criminal lawyers will be able to explain how cultivation may apply to you.


Other drug offences

There are many other drug offences under the Drugs Act, including conspiracy to commit an offence, introducing a drug into another person's body, forging a prescription for a drug, and some school-related drug offences. If you wish to discuss any of these with a legal professional, contact us now.


Alternatives for people charged with a drug offence

If you have been charged with a drug offence, there are some alternate pathways and services available that may be appropriate for you. Some of these include:

1. Cautioning scheme:

Victoria Police and Victorian Courts have introduced a strategy to divert people from the criminal justice system or provide rehabilitation. For example, first-time cannabis or heroin uses are typically cautioned rather than charged with an offence. Being cautioned usually occurs at the police station and typically results in a referral to a rehabilitation centre. Failure to attend a drug treatment centre may incur charges.

2. Court Integrated Services Program (CISP):

CISP exists to help people with health and social hardship, including drug and alcohol dependence, poor mental health, homelessness and disabilities. If deemed suitable for the program, an individual is assigned a CISP Case Manager, who helps to coordinate any treatment, documents progress and provides updates to the Court. Our lawyers can talk to you about a referral to CISP.

3. CISP Remand Outreach Pilot (CROP):

CROP is an extension of the CISP program, applying to those in custody who may be eligible for bail if appropriate community supports are in place.

4. Diversion:

Diversion may be available for first-time offenders. It essentially means to dismiss the charges if the accused participates in the relevant program, without a finding of guilt or imposition of any fine or penalty. Diversion relies on police consent, Magistrate satisfaction and the accused acknowledging responsibility for the offence.

Most people would want to avoid a conviction of a drug offence. A drug conviction can cause particular stress for those who wish to travel, with many countries barring individuals with a drug-related criminal record.

If you think diversion may be an option for you, contact our experienced criminal lawyers to discuss further.


How to contact our expert drug offence lawyers

Melbourne Office
259 William Street

T (03) 9200 2533
E enquiries@galballyobryan.com.au
Dandenong Office
Shop 9/147-151 Foster Street

T (03) 9769 2510
E dandenong@galballyobryan.com.au
Pakenham Office
Shop 1, 15 John Street

T (03) 5941 7990
E pakenham@galballyobryan.com.au

The information on this website is of a general nature only and may not reflect recent changes to certain areas of law. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for discussing your situation with a qualified legal practitioner. Contact us for more information.