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  • Drug Offences in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Drug offences cover wide acts concerning the handling, use, movement or control of drugs within the NT. Depending on the type/severity of the offence, the person found guilty may be subjected to large terms of imprisonment with heavy fines. The court may also impose other penalties with their discretion per the laws of NT.

    The Misuse of Drugs Act (1990) governs the offences and other legal details and cases regarding drug offences. It was amended by the Justice Legislation Amendment (Drug Offences) Act 2016.

    What are the actions that constitute a Drug Offence?

    The law makes it an offence for a legal adult to participate in any activity or purpose relating to drugs. These include;

    1. Administering to another (even an adult)
    2. Supplying the Drugs
    3. Cultivating the plant
    4. Manufacture and Production
    5. Trafficking and commercialization of the drugs
    6. Involving a child or minor in any of these above activities
    7. Other offences that resulted from any of the above (DUI, manslaughter, murder, assault, and so on.)

    The prohibited drugs can even be a drug of dependence or prescribed drugs (if used indiscriminately). Some examples include drugs that incur high penalties like;

    • Heroin
    • Cocaine
    • PCP or Angel Dust - also called phencyclidine
    • LSD - also known as lysergic acid and lysergide
    • Methamphetamine - also known as meth, speed and ice.

    Other prohibited Drugs are;

    • Cannabis
    • Cathinone and methcathinone - also known as meow meow or bath salts
    • Ketamine
    • MDMA - also known as ecstasy or methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

    Penalties for Drug Possession offence

    Possession not only means carrying the drugs or taking them about. Under the Act, you are also in possession of a drug if;

    • Having the drugs with you, such as in your pockets;
    • Having the drug in your home or car; and
    • Someone is looking after the drugs for you.

    Usually, the prosecutor (Police) must prove that the accused was in “possession” of the drugs. However, you will not be found guilty of drug possession if you can prove to the court that;

    • You did not know the drugs
    • There was no reason for you to know they were there.

    If the Police find you in possession of both legal and illegal drugs; the entire quantity is calculated as if they are all illegal drugs.

    Penalties for Drug Possession

    Depending on the quantity the offender is found with;

    If you are found with a commercial quantity, the court can issue fines between 14 and 25 years imprisonment.

    If you are found with a trafficable quantity of the drug, the court will issue penalties up to'

    • 500 penalty units; and/or,
    • 5 – 7 years imprisonment term

    And if the offence was in a public place,

    • 7 – 14 years imprisonment.

    For less than trafficable amounts of the prohibited drugs; the court will issue penalties up to;

    • 50 – 200 penalty units
    • 2 years imprisonment term

    And if the offence was committed in a public space;

    • 200 – 500 penalty units
    • 5 years imprisonment.

    The offence of Drug Administration

    It is an offence under the Act to digest or administer an illegal drug through any of these;

    • Injecting
    • Swallowing
    • Inhaling
    • Smoking

    It is also an offence to possess any of the equipment used to administer the drugs such as; bongs, crack-pipes and other implements used.

    It is an offence even when it was an adult that consented to you administering the drugs to them.

    If you are convicted of one of these offences, you could face a maximum fine of

    • 50 penalty units, and/or
    • Six months in jail.

    Offence of Cultivating

    Under the Act and subsequent legislation, you are prohibited from owning a garden or other place to grow illegal plants. Some of these plants include opium poppies or marijuana. However, you will also be guilty if you are involved in;

    • Helping someone else to grow illegal plants;
    • Providing cash for someone to grow illegal plants; and
    • Letting someone grow drugs on your property.

    The penalties the court imposes depends on the number of prohibited plants cultivated.

    • The maximum penalties for cultivating in commercial quantities is 25 years imprisonment
    • For a trafficable quantity of the plant, the maximum penalty is seven years in prison.
    • For less than the trafficable quantity, the penalty is a fine of;
    • 200 penalty units, and/or
    • Two years' imprisonment.

    The court will issue a life sentencing if commercial cultivation of the plant is in the presence of a child(ren). However, the penalty is reduced to 10 years imprisonment if the cultivation was a trafficable quantity

    Manufacture and Production

    Manufacturing a drug includes being involved, controlling or financing the production or extraction of a drug. A person is also guilty under the Act if they are involved in any way in the distribution, packaging or other supply chains of the drugs manufactured.

    Penalties for Drug Manufacture and Production

    As updated on 8 June 2016, the maximum penalties for manufacturing drugs in the NT are;

    • For manufacture of a commercial quantity of a dangerous drug, the penalty ranges from 25 years to life in prison;
    • For manufacture of less than a commercial quantity, the penalty ranges from 14 to 25 years’ imprisonment.
    • The penalty ranges from 25 years to life in prison (regardless of the quantity) if the manufacture occurs in the presence of a child.

    It is illegal to produce, possess, manage or supply the precursors to anyone, especially where you know it is used to produce illegal drugs

    Precursors for a drug include;

    • Ingredients used in the manufacture of a prohibited drug;
    • Recipes or instructions for making an illegal drug; and
    • Equipment used for the manufacture of an illegal drug.

    Maximum penalties for precursor offences under the amended Act is imprisonment term between 7 and 10 years.

    Offences of Supply and Trafficking

    It is an offence to be actively or passively involved in any of the following with a prohibited drug;

    • Administering;
    • Giving;
    • Selling;
    • Distributing;
    • Transporting;
    • Financing; and
    • Providing premises for selling or dealing illegal drugs to others.

    Trafficking can also be inferred if you were caught with large quantities (deemed supply). And the offender gets the same punishments as they trafficked it.

    Supply and Trafficking offences can be assumed even when no transaction, exchange or supply takes place.

    The maximum penalties for supply depend upon the quantity and type of the drug. The penalties range from;

    • Fine of up to 500 penalty units, and
    • Life imprisonment.

    For cases involving children, the Penalty is as high as

    • 25 years – Life imprisonment (commercial quantity)
    • 14 years – Life imprisonment (non-commercial quantity)

    Will a drug offence in the NT show up on my Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check result?

    If there was a conviction from the court, the offence will show up on an individual’s national police check NT as a disclosable court outcome.

    The offence is released in accordance with NT’s spent convictions legislation.

    You can obtain your criminal record check online from the Australian National Character Check (ANCC) website.

    Wrapping Up

    It is also against the law to supply a volatile or harmful substance to a person if you know they intend to sniff it.

    A volatile substance includes the following:

    • Petrol or other engine fuels;
    • Lighter fluid (butane gas);
    • Spray and aerosol paints;
    • Glue or white-out (correction fluid);
    • Aerosol deodorants.


    Misuse of Drugs Act (1990) -

    Justice Legislation Amendment (Drug Offences) Act 2016 -

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