Drugs and the law

Cannabis seziure

Penalties in the ACT

The severity of penalties for drug use or possession is ultimately at the discretion of the courts, however the following is a guide to the penalties that may be handed down. Life sentences can be given for the most serious offences.


With respect to cannabis in the ACT, it is illegal to:

  • administer it to someone else
  • possess any quantity of it
  • cultivate or be involved in cultivating any quantity of it
  • sell or supply any quantity of it.

Penalties start at $100 fines for simple cannabis offences, and range up to $250 000 fines and life imprisonment for more serious cannabis offences.

Ecstasy, Heroin, Amphetamines and Cocaine

There are penalties including fines of $5000 and/or two years imprisonment for possession offences. Trafficking offence penalties range from $100 000 fines and/or 10 years imprisonment.

ACT Drug Law Reform

The ACT currently uses several legislative instruments for drug offences including the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 (DODA), the ACT Criminal Code 2002 and the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act.

Under these legislative instruments there are offence provisions for a range of drugs including modern synthetic types. The ACT is always updating legislation to keep pace with changes in drug markets.

Drug offences amendments


One of the more significant improvements the DODA makes to drug laws in the ACT is the inclusion of offences relating to ’precursors’. Essentially, ‘precursors’ are the raw chemical components of a controlled drug. Many precursors are present in products that are readily available off-the-shelf in pharmacies, supermarkets and hardware stores and are commonly extracted in backyard laboratories to manufacture controlled drugs, particularly amphetamine type stimulants.

The use of ’precursors’ and controlled drug manufacture has increased over recent years, and accordingly the DODA includes a range of offences to deal with those who:

  • manufacture, sell or possess ‘controlled precursors’ to manufacture controlled drugs
  • manufacture controlled drugs
  • possess equipment for manufacture including pill presses.

Penalties relating to these types of offences can range from $100 000 fines and/or 10 years imprisonment up to life.

Child protection

A number of offences included in the legislation are for the protection of children. These include offences for procuring a child to traffic drugs and supplying drugs to a child for the child to sell.

Penalties relating to these types of offences can range from $5000 fines and/or 5 years imprisonment up to life.

Cannabis offence notice

The Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 (DoDA) has been amended to reduce the number of cannabis plants which can be dealt with by way of a Simple Cannabis Offence Notice (SCON) from five to two and the exclusion of all hydroponically or artificially cultivated cannabis plants from the SCON scheme.

The SCON scheme allows for a person to possess up to 50 grams of dried cannabis, or two cannabis plants (excluding all hydroponically or artificially cultivated cannabis plants) where it is deemed by police to be for personal use only they can be issued a penalty order fine. If the fine is paid within 60 days, no criminal record will be recorded. However failure to pay the penalty order may result in criminal proceedings before the court. Possession of any amount of cannabis in the ACT is NOT legal it is only decriminalised.

The decision was made to exclude hydroponically grown cannabis plants from the SCON scheme as the trend towards hydroponic methods of cannabis cultivation indicates that the quantities of cannabis now able to be produced, and potentially the potency of that cannabis, are no longer in line with the original intentions of the scheme.

Police have discretion to issue a SCON or charge an offender with a criminal offence.

It is also an offence to drive while under the influence of illegal drugs. Unlike alcohol, there is a zero tolerance for drugs in your system when driving. For more information, visit the drug driving webpage.

Information for businesses

Common household items sold in retail stores can be used in the manufacturing of illicit drugs. When purchased alone the items below do not represent illicit drug activity. However, frequent and large quantity purchases of one or more of the items below or similar items may be an indication of illicit drug manufacturing.

If you suspect a suspicious purchase has occurred in your store, try to:

  • keep a copy of the receipt as proof of the transaction
  • keep a copy of the credit card details, if used
  • make note of the time of purchase and physical description of the person
  • keep hold of CCTV footage of people behaving suspiciously
  • record a vehicle registration if safe to do so.

Report suspicious illicit drug activity to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via the online reporting form.


Visit the Australian Crime Commission website for statistical overview of illicit drug arrests and seizures as well as profiling the current situation, national impact and the emerging trends and threats of illicit drugs in Australia.