Except for possession of small amounts of cannabis, drug offences in Victoria can lead to serious penalties. Penalties can be severe for offences involving illicit drugs in Victoria. Those drugs, known as “drugs of dependence,” include drugs you cannot possess without a prescription and drugs you cannot possess under any circumstances. They include cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and a variety of other chemical substances.
Drug crimes in Victoria fall into four basic categories. This article will explain those basic offences. Since the crimes are too complex to describe here in detail, you should consult a lawyer if you are charged with a drug offence.
Use fo Drugs
It is an offence to “use” a drug of dependence. Using a drug means consuming it by smoking, inhaling, injecting, swallowing, or otherwise introducing the drug into your body.
Using cannabis in Victoria is punishable by a fine only. Using other drugs is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 1 year.
It is an offence to “possess” a drug of dependence. Possessing a drug means having physical custody or control of the drug. More than one person can possess the same drug if you are sharing ownership with someone else.
You are not guilty of the offence if you did not know you possessed a drug or if you did not intend to possess it. If you thought you possessed flour and it turned out to be cocaine, or if someone put cocaine in your pocket without your knowledge or consent, you committed no offence. However, if the drug was found on your premises while you were present, it is your burden to prove your lack of knowledge or intent.
In Victoria, possession of 50 grams or less of cannabis for personal use is punishable by a fine only. Possession of larger quantities of cannabis or of any other drug is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 1 year.
Growing, tending, or harvesting a plant from which illegal drugs are derived is the offence of cultivation. Cannabis and opium poppies are most commonly involved in this offence.
Cultivation for personal use (generally fewer than 10 plants) is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 1 year. Cultivation for sale is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years. Cultivation of more than 100 plants is punishable by imprisonment of 25 years, while an even larger growing operations can be punished by a life sentence.
The offence of trafficking a drug generally means selling it. Manufacturing the drug, possessing it for sale, offering it for sale, and certain other drug-related activities are also punished as trafficking.
In addition to a fine, trafficking offences are punishable by maximum sentences of imprisonment of 15, 20, or 25 years or life, depending on the quantity of the drug involved in the crime.