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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Cannabis Offences Cannabis Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

    Cannabis Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

    Like most Australian Territories and States, it is an offence in South Australia to grow, cultivate, sell, or deal illegally with Cannabis. SA has penalties for those who defy this order to deal with Cannabis for a non-medicinal or regulated purpose.

    The penalties for the illegal use of Cannabis are stronger, especially where they are commercially adopted or used. For legislation in SA, section 4(1) of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) concludes Cannabis as;

    • Cannabis Oil,
    • Cannabis Resin
    • Dried Cannabis, or
    • Other extracts of Cannabis.

    The Act further describes any of these extracts of Cannabis as "Controlled Drugs" following the stipulations of the Controlled Substances (Controlled Drugs, Precursors and Plants) Regulations 2014.

    If an individual is convicted in a South Australian court for a cannabis offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a South Australian Criminal History Check certificate.

    What are Cannabis Offences?

    The Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) prescribes guiding descriptions and penalties for Cannabis offences in South Australia. The legislation provides for Simple and Commercial Cannabis (Controlled Drugs) offences in SA.

    Simple Cannabis offences

    Following s45A of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA), a cannabis offender can be released on expiation notices or fees once they settle the conditions.

    However, punishments by expiations are only available when a person commits a simple cannabis offence.

    Furthermore, simple cannabis offences dealt with on expiation are usually handled in a Magistrates court in SA.

    Expiation Notice for simple cannabis offences

    When a person gets an expiation notice regarding a cannabis offence, they either settle "on the spot" rather than a court summons which may result in stiffer penalties.

    Also, settlement of an expiation notice does not translate as an admission of guilt from the person under the Expiation of Offences Act 1996 (SA)

    Typically, a person should settle the fines or conditions of their expiation notice within 28 days of receiving it and on settlement of expiation notices/fees.

    However, if a person defaults on expiation payments, it may be officially withdrawn and replaced with a court summons.

    The expiation fees will differ depending on the gravity and severity of the offence;

    1. Offence if possessing less than 25 grams of Cannabis in SA incurs $250
    2. The offence of possessing between 25 and 100 grams of Cannabis is $400
    3. The offence of possessing less than 5 grams of resin is $250
    4. The offence of possessing between 5 and 20 grams of resin is $400
    5. The offence of smoking or consumption in private is $250
    6. For possessing the pipes or other equipment (other than for commercial purposes) is $250, which could be higher if there are additional offences
    7. The offence of non-commercial cultivation/manufacture, especially for one plant, and no hydroponic cultivation is $400.

    If a person is found cultivating more than one plant (2-5), s33K of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) prescribes penalties of;

    • $1000 or 6 months imprisonment, or
    • Both

    If the number is greater than five but under 10, it is a likely penalty up to;

    • Two years imprisonment and/or fines of $2000
    • An aggravating circumstance is where the offender is a serious drug offender where the maximum penalty increases to fines up to
    • $5000 and/or five years imprisonment

    Commercial Drug Offences

    Commercial drug offences are grave offences in SA, and in cases of aggravation, they may incur penalties as high as life imprisonment.

    These offences are usually treated summarily in a Magistrate per stipulations unless the penalty exceeds five years. For this section, a person is guilty of a commercial drug offence if they possess or deal with a large quantity (prescribed by the law) unless they can prove otherwise.

    1. Trafficking a Controlled Drug (Cannabis)

    It is an offence listed in section 32 of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) for a person to move, supply or transport a large quantity of a controlled drug. It is an offence that incurs penalties between;

    • $50,000 - $75,000 in fines amount, or
    • Imprisonment between 10 to 15 years, or
    • Both.

    1. Manufacture of Controlled Drugs (Cannabis)

    The offence of cultivating or manufacturing controlled drugs (Cannabis) to sell to another person. It is a crime that carries penalty between;

    • $50,000 - $75,000
    • 10 – 15 years imprisonment, or
    • Both depend on the circumstances of the offence.

    1. The offence of Sale or manufacture if a controlled precursor (Cannabis)

    Under section 33A of the Act, it is an offence to deal in a controlled precursor and large quantities. A person is also assumed to commit this offence if they possess enormous amounts unless they prove otherwise.

    It is an offence that incurs penalties of;

    • $50,000 to $75,000 in fine amount,
    • 10 - 15 years imprisonment,
    • Or Both

    1. Cultivation for sale of a Controlled plant (Cannabis)

    It is an offence to cultivate a controlled substance in large quantities, especially for sale. Section 33B of the Act prescribes penalties up to;

    • $50, 000 to $75, 000 in fine amounts
    • 10 to 15 years imprisonment term
    • Or both, per the severity of the offence.

    1. Sale of a Controlled Plant (Cannabis)

    It is an offence under section 33C to sell large commercial quantities of Cannabis in SA. It also includes a person who possesses a large quantity of Cannabis and intends to sell them.

    For this offence, the Act prescribes punishments between;

    • $50,000 to $75,000
    • 10 to 15 years imprisonment, or
    • Both, per the severity of the offence.

    1. Sale of Equipment for processing Cannabis

    It is an offence to sell a piece of equipment used in smoking or consumption of Cannabis or other controlled drugs. It includes major cases where the accused person has possession of these equipment intending to sell them for such use.

    It is an offence that incurs between;

    • $15,000 to $20,000 in fine amounts
    • Three years to 5 years imprisonment term

    And for an aggravated circumstance, this may increase to;

    $20,000 or 5 years imprisonment, or both depending on the severity of the offence.

    Other Cannabis and Drug offences in SA

    It is an aggravating circumstance in any drug offence to include a child or a “Children designated areas” in a drug offence

    Section 33 (F to H) of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) defines various circumstances where a person consists of a child in a drug offence. The most grievous forms of these offences reach penalties of

    • $1,000,000 in fine amounts
    • Life imprisonment.

    Other primary offences range between;

    • $20,000 to $30,000
    • 5 to 7 years imprisonment
    • Or Both.

    Will a Cannabis Offence in South Australia (SA) show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a cannabis offence in SA, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their national police clearance check.

    Individuals can obtain a police check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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