In Queensland, drug charges are governed by the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, which outlines various charges related to the possession, supply, production, and trafficking of illegal substances. The Act categorises drugs into different schedules, with penalties varying based on the type of drug, the quantity involved, and the nature of the offence.

Queensland recently introduced a three-strike rule when it comes to the possession of small quantities of illicit substances. 

The Three Strike Rule

In April 2023, the Queensland Government expanded its Police Drug Diversion program to cover all drugs. This now means there is a tiered approach to minor drug possessions: 

  • 1st minor drug-possession offence – a police officer issues a warning, accompanied by a drug warning notice and a police referral to a support service.
  • 2nd and 3rd minor drug-possession offence – a police officer offers the opportunity for the person to participate in a mandatory Drug Diversion Assessment Program.
  • 4th minor drug-possession offence – a police officer issues the offender with a notice to appear in court.

The focus is on treating drug issues as health problems, especially for the youth. This change aims to save police time for serious crimes like trafficking, which now faces a life sentence, up from 25 years. The program is part of a larger $1.645 billion mental health and drug service improvement plan, including a focus on First Nations peoples.

Frameworks of Drug Charges

Type of drug: Classified under schedules in the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987, the type of drug significantly impacts the legal consequences. More on this below. 

Quantity: Larger quantities often lead to more severe charges, such as trafficking, compared to possession.

Possession: Holding illegal drugs for personal use. It’s one of the most common drug offences, with penalties depending on the type and quantity of the drug.

Supply and trafficking: Involves distributing or selling illegal drugs. Trafficking, considered more severe, entails ongoing engagement in the supply of drugs.

Production and manufacturing: The creation or cultivation of illegal drugs, including growing cannabis or manufacturing substances like methamphetamine. 

Personal circumstances: The court also considers the offender’s personal circumstances, including their criminal history, rehabilitation efforts, and the impact of potential sentences on their life.

What Is the Penalty for a Drug Offence in Queensland?

The penalty for a drug offence depends on the type of drug and amount in question and scales from there. 

Possessing Drugs

The act of possessing dangerous drugs is sanctioned under section 9 of the Drugs Misuse Act, with penalties escalating based on the drug’s type and quantity. For less severe cases handled in the Magistrate Court, the maximum penalty is 3 years of imprisonment. However, more severe instances adjudicated in higher courts can lead to much longer imprisonment terms.

For example:

  • Cannabis possession can attract up to 15 years imprisonment for amounts less than 500 grams or 100 plants, and up to 20 years for more than 500 grams or 100 plants.
  • Cocaine possession penalties can escalate to up to 15 years for less than two grams, 20 years for more than two grams, and 25 years for possessing 200 grams or more.

*A drug-dependent person at the time of the offence may be subject to a lesser maximum penalty, reflecting the court’s discretion based on individual circumstances.

Supplying Drugs

Supplying dangerous drugs, as defined under section 6 of the Act, carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment when summarily dealt with in the Magistrates Court. This offence requires the prosecution to prove that the accused knowingly supplied a dangerous drug without a lawful excuse. For aggravated cases involving large quantities or supply under aggravated circumstances, such as to a child, the offence is elevated to aggravated supply and handled in the Supreme Court, where penalties can reach from 15 years to life imprisonment.

Trafficking Drugs

Defined under section 5, drug trafficking carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, depending on the trafficked drug. The scale of the commercial operation influences the charge, with smaller operations between individuals more likely resulting in a charge of supplying a dangerous drug rather than trafficking.

Producing Dangerous Drugs

Offences against section 8, involving the production of dangerous drugs, attract penalties ranging between 15 and 25 years of imprisonment, varying with the type and quantity of the drug. Conviction under this provision requires proof that the individual knowingly took part in the drug’s preparation, manufacture, cultivation, packaging, or production without a lawful excuse.

These penalties underscore the severe stance Queensland law takes against drug offences, reflecting the societal and health implications associated with dangerous drugs. Given the complexity of the legal system and the significant impact of these penalties on individuals’ lives, securing experienced legal representation is crucial for anyone facing drug charges.

Sentencing for Drug Offences

Queensland courts have a range of sentencing options for drug offences, from fines and community service to imprisonment. For more serious charges, such as trafficking Schedule 1 drugs, sentences can be as severe as life sentences. However, for possession of small quantities for personal use, penalties will be less severe, and begin with diversion programs aimed at rehabilitation, as mentioned previously.

Implications of a Conviction

Beyond immediate penalties, a drug conviction can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s employment opportunities, travel plans, and social reputation. It underscores the importance of obtaining expert legal representation to navigate the complexities of the legal system and seek the most favourable outcome possible.

What to Do If You’re Charged with Possession of Drugs in Queensland?

Being charged with a drug offence in Queensland is a serious matter with potentially severe consequences. Every day, we assist individuals in consulting their drug offence issues to achieve the most favourable outcomes, aiming to restore their careers, licences, travel visas, and public image promptly. If you’re seeking legal advice or representation in Queensland, Donnelly Law Group is here to help. Contact us today, and let our experienced criminal lawyers in Queensland guide you through your legal challenges with confidence and skill.