Status - passed Parliament
The Statutes Amendment (Drug Offences) Bill 2018 proposed changes to crackdown on drug offenders. This included increased penalties for cannabis possession in line with community expectations, and limiting the number of drug diversions before a person must be charged with an offence. This Bill changes the Controlled Substances Act 1984 and the Sentencing Act 2017.
Drug diversion programs
Under the current law, police must allow a person who has been detected for a simple drug possession offence to participate in an intervention program as an alternative to entering the justice system. If the person meets the requirements of the program, they do not need to face court.
This Bill will introduce limits on the number of times someone can enter a drug diversion program - 2 in a 4 year period.
The Bill increases the maximum penalty for cannabis possession from $500 to $2,000. Police are still be able issue an expiation notice instead of prosecuting.
Increasing penalties for serious drug offenders
Under previous drug laws, a person could be charged with either a basic offence or an aggravated offence. The Bill ensures the court takes a person’s relevant criminal history into account when choosing a penalty, with ‘serious drug offenders’ facing the same tough penalties that apply to aggravated offences.
A person is considered a serious drug offender if they have 3 previous convictions in the past 10 years for drug offences, or 2 previous convictions in the past 10 years that involve commercial quantities of drugs or that involve children or school zones.
In addition, maximum fines have doubled from $500,000 to $1 million for people who traffic and manufacture large commercial amounts of controlled drugs and controlled plants.
Under the previous law, someone who sells a controlled drug and is charged with a basic offence faces a maximum penalty of $50,000 or 10 years in prison, regardless of how many past drug convictions they have. Following the changes, people with several drug convictions face harsher penalties up to $75,000 or 15 years imprisonment, in line with penalties for an aggravated offence.
Increasing protections for children
A person is not be able to receive a suspended sentence or home detention order if they are charged with a drug offence that involves children or that occurs within a school zone. This includes anyone who sells or gives drugs to children.
The Bill also requires the court to consider whether a child was present where drugs were manufactured when choosing a penalty.