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Drug Offences SA

Punishment for drug offences can be severe, but some offences receive more lenient treatment

There are dozens of drug crimes in South Australia. This article will describe the most common crimes and penalties that apply to controlled drugs (such as Ecstasy, LSD, and heroin), including drugs of dependence (such as cocaine and methylamphetamine). Cannabis (marijuana) is also a controlled drug but, as we explain, different laws apply to certain cannabis offences.

Drug crimes are complex. Many additional crimes (such as prescription fraud) are not addressed here. You should always consult with a lawyer if you are charged with a drug offence.

Trafficking in a Controlled Drug

It is an offence to sell a controlled drug or to possess it with the intent to sell it.

Maximum penalty: Depending upon the quantity involved, maximum fines range from $50,000 to $500,000 and maximum terms of imprisonment range from 10 years to life.

Similar penalties apply to the sale of cannabis, although a 2 year maximum penalty applies to the sale of one plant unless the case is transferred out of Magistrate’s Court.

Supply or Administer a Controlled Drug

This crime is committed by providing a drug to someone else or by possessing a drug with that intent. It differs from trafficking in that the person providing the drug does not need to receive money or anything else in exchange for the drug.

Maximum penalty (drugs other than cannabis):  $50,000 fine, 10 years imprisonment.

Maximum penalty (cannabis): $2,000 fine, 2 years imprisonment.

Cultivation of Cannabis

Growing marijuana plants (including acts related to growing, such as harvesting) is a crime unless only one plant was grown and no artificial means were used to grow it.

Maximum penalty if 2 to 5 plants are cultivated (or 1 to 5 plants if cultivated using artificial means):  $1,000 fine, 6 months imprisonment.

Maximum penalty if more than 5 plants are cultivated:  $2,000 fine, 2 years imprisonment.

Cultivation for sale is a more serious crime. The penalties depend upon the number of plants cultivated. Growing 10 or more plants implies an intent to sell them.

Possession or Use of a Controlled Drug (other than cannabis)

Other than cannabis, possession of a controlled drug for personal use, as well as the actual use of the drug, is a crime.

Maximum penalty: $2,000 fine, 2 years imprisonment.

If the drug is a drug of dependence, however, a first offence will normally result in a referral for a drug assessment. The offender may be given an undertaking to comply with assessment recommendations and can avoid prosecution by completing the undertaking successfully.

Simple Cannabis Offences

A simple cannabis offence is:

  • Growing one cannabis plant if no artificial light or hydroponic system is used
  • Possession of not more than 100 grams of cannabis for personal use
  • Smoking or consuming cannabis, not in a public place
  • Possession of a pipe or other paraphernalia used to consume cannabis

Simple cannabis offences are not treated as crimes. Violations are dealt with by the issuance of an expiation notice. Expiation fees are generally $150 or $300, depending on the offence.

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