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Penalties for Drug Offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)

The Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (‘the Act’) is a piece of legislation that applies throughout Australia.

The maximum penalties that apply to drug offences under the Act depend on the type and weight of the drug, and whether the case is finalised in the Local Court or in a higher court such as the District Court.

It is important to be aware that maximum penalties apply only in the most serious cases, and that the court retains discretion to impose any one of a number of other penalties, including a ‘non-conviction order’, good behaviour bond, community service or suspended prison sentence.

Will the case be heard in the Local Court or referred to a higher court?

An important factor when it comes to handing down a penalty for an offence under the Act is whether the case is heard in the Local Court, where the maximum penalty that can be imposed is generally 2 years in prison, or a higher court such as the District Court where the maximum is that which is stated in the Act.

Pure weights apply

It should also be borne in mind that the pure weight of the drug applies to offences under the Criminal Code Act, not the ‘admixture’ as is the case for NSW state drug offences (eg those under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985).

In other words, the weight of the pure drug within the ‘cut’ substance is relevant for Criminal Code Act drug offences, not the total weight of the substance that contains the drug.

Penalty unit

A Commonwealth penalty unit is equivalent to $210.

Most frequently prosecuted border controlled drugs and plants

The Criminal Code Act generally prescribes maximum penalties based on whether the weight of the drug or precursor, or the number or weight of the plant represents:

  • A commercial quantity,
  • A marketable quantity, or
  • Any quantity.

Tables of commercial and marketable quantities for all substances are located at the end of the page.

Here are the maximum penalties that apply to various offences:

Trafficking controlled drugs

Section Offence Maximum penalty
302.2 Trafficking commercial quantities of controlled drugs Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
302.3 Trafficking marketable quantities of controlled drugs Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
302.4 Trafficking controlled drugs Imprisonment for 10 years or 2,000 penalty units,

Cultivating controlled plants

Section Offence Maximum penalty
303.4 Cultivating commercial quantities of controlled plants Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
303.5 Cultivating marketable quantities of controlled plants Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
303.6 Cultivating controlled plants Imprisonment for 10 years or 2,000 penalty units, or both.

Selling controlled plants

Section Offence Maximum penalty
304.1 Selling commercial quantities of controlled plants Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
304.2 Selling marketable quantities of controlled plants Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both
304.3 Selling controlled plants Imprisonment for 10 years or 2,000 penalty units, or both.

Manufacturing controlled drugs

Section Offence Maximum penalty
305.3 Manufacturing commercial quantities of controlled drugs Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
305.4 Manufacturing marketable quantities of controlled drugs In the case of an aggravated offence–imprisonment for 28 years or 5,600 penalty units, or both; or

In any other case–imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units,

305.5 Manufacturing controlled drugs In the case of an aggravated offence–imprisonment for 12 years or 2,400 penalty units, or both; or

In any other case–imprisonment for 10 years or 2,000 penalty units, or both.

Pre-trafficking of controlled precursors

Section Offence Maximum penalty
306.2 Pre-trafficking commercial quantities of controlled precursors In the case of an aggravated offence–imprisonment for 28 years or 5,600 penalty units, or both; or

In any other case–imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.

306.3 Pre-trafficking marketable quantities of controlled precursors In the case of an aggravated offence–imprisonment for 17 years or 3,400 penalty units, or both; or

In any other case–imprisonment for 15 years or 3,000 penalty units, or both.

306.4 Pre-trafficking controlled precursors In the case of an aggravated offence–imprisonment for 9 years or 1,800 penalty units, or both; or

In any other case–imprisonment for 7 years or 1,400 penalty units, or both.

Importing or exporting border controlled drug or plant

Section Offence Maximum penalty
307.1 Importing and exporting commercial quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
307.2 Importing and exporting marketable quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
307.3 Importing and exporting border controlled drugs or border controlled plants Imprisonment for 10 years or 2,000 penalty units, or both.

Importing or exporting border controlled drug or plant – no defence relating to lack of commercial intent

Section Offence Maximum penalty
307.4 Importing and exporting border controlled drugs or border controlled plants–no defence relating to lack of commercial intent Imprisonment for 2 years, or 400 penalty units, or both.

Possessing unlawfully imported border controlled drug or plant

Section Offence Maximum penalty
307.5 Possessing commercial quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs or border controlled plants Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
307.6 Possessing marketable quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs or border controlled plants Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
307.7 Possessing unlawfully imported border controlled drugs or border controlled plants Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

Possessing border controlled drug or plant reasonably suspected of being unlawfully imported

Section Offence Maximum penalty
307.8 Possessing commercial quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
307.9 Possessing marketable quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
307.10 Possessing border controlled drugs or border controlled plants reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.

Importing or exporting border controlled precursors

Section Offence Maximum penalty
307.11 Importing and exporting commercial quantities of border controlled precursors Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
307.12 Importing and exporting marketable quantities of border controlled precursors Imprisonment for 15 years or 3,000 penalty units, or both.
307.13 Importing and exporting border controlled precursors Imprisonment for 7 years or 1,400 penalty units, or both.

Possession offences

Section Offence Maximum penalty
308.1 Possessing controlled drugs Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.
308.2 Possessing controlled precursors Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.
308.3 Possessing plant material, equipment or instructions for commercial cultivation of controlled plants Imprisonment for 7 years or 1,400 penalty units, or both.
308.4 Possessing substance, equipment or instructions for commercial cultivation of controlled drugs Imprisonment for 7 years or 1,400 penalty units, or both.

 Offences involving children

309.2 Supplying controlled drugs to children Imprisonment for 15 years or 3,000 penalty units, or both.
309.3 Supplying marketable quantity of controlled drugs to children for trafficking Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
309.4 Supplying controlled drugs to children for trafficking Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
309.7 Procuring children for trafficking marketable quantities of controlled drugs Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
309.8 Procuring children for trafficking of controlled drugs Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
309.10 Procuring children for pre-trafficking marketable quantities of controlled precursors Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
309.11 Procuring children for pre-trafficking of controlled precursors Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
309.12 Procuring children for importing or exporting marketable quantities of border controlled drugs or plants Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
309.13 Procuring children for importing or exporting border controlled drugs or plants Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
309.14 Procuring children for importing or exporting marketable quantities of border controlled precursors Imprisonment for life or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
309.15 Procuring children for importing or exporting border controlled precursors Imprisonment for 25 years or 5,000 penalty units, or both.
310.2 Endangering child by exposure to unlawful manufacturing controlled drug or plant Imprisonment for 9 years or 1,800 penalty units, or both.
310.3 Harming child by exposure to unlawful manufacturing controlled drug or plant Imprisonment for 9 years or 1,800 penalty units, or both.

 Marketable and Commercial Quantities of Drugs and Plants

The Act contains the following tables that list the types, as well as the relevant quantities of:

  1. Controlled drugs,
  2. Border controlled drugs,
  3. Controlled plants,
  4. Border controlled plants,
  5. Controlled precursors, and
  6. Border controlled precursors.

Click on the appropriate link below to see the relevant drug types and quantities:

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