Is Drug Purity Relevant?

by Ugur Nedim

The seriousness of a drug charge will largely depend on the weight of the drug.

But what constitutes the weight of the drug?

Is it the total impure weight of the substance containing the drug? Or only the pure weight of the drug within the substance?

In other words, if 5 ‘ecstasy’ pills are located which have a total ‘impure’ weight of 1 gram and an ‘ecstasy’ concentration of 20%, is the relevant weight the total 1 gram or the pure weight which would be 0.2 grams?

The answer is highly relevant because, for example, if the weight is 1 gram a person in possession can be charge with ‘deemed drug supply’ which is more serious than ‘drug possession’.

The answer is that for NSW state charges such as ‘drug possession’, ‘drug supply’, ‘deemed supply’, ‘ongoing supply’, ‘manufacture’ etc, the total ‘impure’ weight of the drug is relevant; in other words, the total 1 gram.

This is the case even if the drug purity is extremely low, eg 1%.

However, the purity of the drug can in circumstances be taken into account at ‘sentencing’.

For example, if a person is charged with ‘drug supply’ and the drug purity is extremely high, the offence can be treated more seriously.

Commonwealth offences

This is different to the situation with Commonwealth drug offences such as ‘drug importation / exportation’ and ‘possessing an unlawfully imported border controlled drug’, where only the pure weight of the substance within the admixture is relevant.

So, for example, where 20 kgs of a substance is imported which is 10% pure, the relevant weight for the purposes of a Commonwealth offence is 2kgs.

Author

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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