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Drug Offences in South Australia (SA)

The information on this webpage is to be read in conjunction with this disclaimer:
Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.


Drug offences and misuse (SA) fall under the Controlled Substances Act 1984, which prohibits or bans any of the following actions with a prohibited drug;

  • The manufacture,
  • Supply,
  • Sale,
  • Possession,
  • Use

These drugs include any of;

  • Drugs of dependence,
  • Controlled drugs,
  • Prescription drugs,
  • Controlled plants,
  • Controlled precursors (or ingredients).

Another part of the legislation against drug offences is the Summary Offences Act 1953 that bans the sale of Drug equipment. The law distinguishes between producers or suppliers and drug users and stipulates the penalties for their offence.

The offence of possession and use of Drugs

Under section 33 of the Act (Controlled Substances Act 1984), the court can find you guilty of possession where;

  • The drug is found in your possession, property, care, guidance, supervision or control.
  • You know that such drug is in your custody, control or premises
  • You are aware that you harbour, guard or hide an illegal drug (even when you don't know the type of drug)

The maximum penalties for such offences are;

  • Possessing, smoking or consuming cannabis, cannabis resin or oil, or possessing associated equipment attracts penalties of $500 fines.
  • Possessing a drug of dependence is usually dealt with by assessment panel referral.

Possessing an equipment used in Drug Offences

Section 33LA of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 stipulates that if you are charged with the offence of possessing an equipment, it means that you were caught with;

Equipment used to;

  • Smoke,
  • Consume, and
  • Administer controlled drugs (except syringes and needles)
  • Or prepare any of the above

The maximum penalties the court imposes for these offences depend on the type of offence;

  • Possessing equipment not for use for cannabis, cannabis resin or oil attracts penalties of;

$2,000 and/or,

2 year's imprisonment.

  • Selling equipment, or possessing it intending to sell it attracts penalties of

$10,000 ($50,000 for a company) and/or,

2 year’s imprisonment.

  • Selling equipment, or possessing it intending to sell to a child attracts penalties of;

$20,000 ($100,000 for a company) and/or

2 year’s imprisonment,

The offence of Cultivating a Drug in South Australia

The various actions prohibited under the Act include;

  • Plant or transplant any plant cutting, seed or seedling
  • Nurture, tend or grow
  • Harvest
  • Dry harvested plant
  • Take part in these steps, including directing, taking part or participating in, or causing the step to be taken.

It also includes, in respect of any plant(s), equipment, substances or materials;

  • Acquiring or storing
  • Carrying, transporting, loading and unloading
  • Guarding or concealing
  • Providing or arranging finance
  • Providing or allowing a premise to be used or jointly occupying some premises.

Penalties for Cultivating Controlled Plants

The Law against prohibited drugs stipulates the maximum penalties for all actions of cultivating a Drug as;

  • Cultivating one controlled plant other than cannabis to sell it or any of its products, or knowing someone else intends to attract penalties of;

$50,000 and/or

10 year’s imprisonment

  • If the offence was for less than 5 cannabis plants, the penalties are;

$1,000 and/or

6 month’s imprisonments

  • For offences of cultivating in commercial quantities (20) of any controlled plant;

$200,000 and/or

25 year’s imprisonment

  • Aggravated offence – commercial quantity of any controlled plant attracts penalties of

$500,000 and life imprisonment

Large commercial quantities (100) of any controlled plant attract penalties of $500,000 and/or life imprisonment.

Manufacturing Drugs

Manufacture means the process of extracting, producing, refining or reproducing any of the prohibited drugs. Under the law you will also be charged and possibly convicted of direct or indirect participation in the process including;

  • Acquiring or storing
  • Carrying, transporting, loading and unloading
  • Guarding or concealing
  • Providing or arranging finance
  • Providing or allowing the use of premises, or jointly occupying premises.

The prohibition includes drug alternatives like those;

  • Are promoted as a legal alternative to an illegal drug or
  • Are sold as an illegal drug but are a different substance or
  • Have, are meant to have, or are promoted as having, a similar effect as an illegal drug.

Penalties for the offence of Manufacturing Drugs

The Controlled Substances Act stipulates maximum penalties of manufacturing the following;

  • Controlled drug attracts $35,000 and/or, 7 year's imprisonment
  • $35,000 and/or 7 year’s imprisonment attracts $50,000 and/or 10 year's imprisonment.
  • Aggravated offence – controlled drug for sale $75,000 and/or, 15 year's imprisonment.
  • Commercial quantity-controlled drug for sale $200,000 and/or, 25 year's imprisonment.
  • Aggravated offence – a commercial quantity-controlled drug for sale $500,000 and/or, life imprisonment.
  • Large commercial quantity-controlled drugs for sale attract penalties of $500,000 and/or, life imprisonment.
  • Manufacturing, packaging, selling/supplying promoted controlled drug alternatives attracts maximum penalties of; $15,000 and/or, 4 year's imprisonment.

Offences of Supplying and Trafficking Drugs

You will be charged with the offence of drug supply if you provided or distributed or offered to do so. It also includes supplying friends on a social basis. S.32, 33 and 43 of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 stipulates the maximum penalties as;

  • Possessing, smoking or consuming cannabis, cannabis resin or oil, or possessing associated equipment attracts $500
  • Supplying or administering cannabis, its resin or oil to another, or possessing it intending to do so attracts penalties of $50,000, and/or 10 years imprisonment.
  • Supplying or administering a drug of dependence to another, or possessing such a drug intending to do so attracts penalties of;

$50,000 and/or,

10 year’s imprisonment

  • Trafficking in a prescribed area (usually a licensed premises or entertainment venue) attracts;

$75,000 and/or

15 year’s imprisonment

  • Trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug attracts penalties of;

$200,000 and/or

25 year’s imprisonment

  • Trafficking a large commercial quantity of a drug attracts penalties of;

$500,000 and/or

Life imprisonment

Offences within a school zone

The Law states a School zone as the area or perimeter that falls around its 500 meters boundary. Such offences include;

  • Selling, supplying, or administering a controlled drug to a child, or possessing it for that purpose
  • Selling, supplying, or administering a controlled drug to another within a school zone, or possessing it for any of those purposes.

The maximum penalties the court imposes for this offence is;

  • $1,000,000 and/or
  • Life imprisonment

Prescription Drug offences

It is an offence to use a prescription drug illegitimately. It does not matter if such drugs were medically prescribed or advised.

  • Possessing a prescription drug not lawfully prescribed to them attracts penalties up to;

$10,000 and/or

2 year’s imprisonment

  • Forging or altering a prescription, or possessing a forged or altered prescription to obtain a prescription drug attracts penalties up to;

$10,000 and/or

2 year’s imprisonment

  • Falsely obtaining a prescription drug or a prescription for a drug attracts penalties up to $10,000 and/or

2 year’s imprisonment


Give false name or address for a drug prescription or supply, the penalties are $10,000 in fines

Supplying volatile substances

You are guilty under section 19(1) of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 law if you supply a volatile substance to a person after you suspected the person intends to;

  • Inhale it
  • Sell or supply it to another for inhalation
  • Buy it for another to inhale, or
  • Sell it to someone under 16.

Other Drug Offences

Many other drug offences carry specific punishments under their various laws. Drug offences can also include all other offences that resulted from the use of drugs. Some of these offences are

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Offences

DUI offences are the most common causes of Road and Traffic mishaps in Australia. It is a serious offence if the Police or Traffic official pronounces you to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Such offences are usually prosecuted in the Magistrate court under Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, and if found guilty, the punishments include;

  • $1100 - $1600 in fines, depending on the severity and impact of the offence;
  • 6 demerit points to their driver’s license
  • Mandatory Alcohol interlock on their vehicle
  • Minimum disqualification period of 12 months. However, the court may reduce it to 1 month if it concludes the offence was trifling
  • Clamping or impounding the vehicle for a specified period

Other punishments for Drug Offences

  • The SA laws stipulate the maximum penalties for all drug offences as communicated in the Controlled Substances Act 1984
  • Summary Offence Act 1953

However, for minor offences (possession or use of fewer than 100 grams of cannabis), you may get a diversion program or an expiation notice. In the commonwealth legislation, the court can issue a Court warning, or the Police officer issues a Police caution.

However, for serious offences, the court can authorize;

  • The seizure of all Assets, including personal and all others gifted
  • The sealing of the properties and premises for the drugs
  • Confiscation of all other properties and equipment

What are examples of Controlled Drugs?

The definition of "controlled drugs" extends to include chemical derivations of, or chemically similar to, listed controlled drugs. They include;

  • Heroin,
  • Cannabis,
  • THC Cannabinoids,
  • Cathinone (Mephedrone, MCAT, meow),
  • PCE,
  • PCP,
  • LSD,
  • DMT,
  • Ketamine,
  • Mescaline,
  • Amphetamine,
  • Dexamphetamine,
  • Buprenorphine,
  • Cocaine.

Does the Police attend to Overdose cases?

The Police will not attend to a case of drug overdose except;

  • Requested by ambulance paramedics
  • They were already within the vicinity
  • The death occurred, or they were other suspicious circumstances
  • It was a flagged area, and it was cordoned off.

Do drug offences appear on police checks?

Drug offences and convictions are considered serious offences and will show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check result.

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

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The contents of this website do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice.

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