Drug use is a prevalent problem in modern society with serious and widespread consequences for individuals, health systems, emergency services, crime rates and a range of other issues.
For these reasons penalties to deter the misuse of dangerous drugs are severe. There is, however, an understandable difference between the severity of penalties for personal possession and commercial use of dangerous drugs, which we’ll give more detail on in this post.
What is important to know at the outset is that possession of illegal drugs, whether for personal or commercial use, is an offence.
How is possession for personal use treated?
In Queensland, it is illegal to possess dangerous drugs – even in small quantities – for personal use. There are strict laws surrounding drug offences and it is important to understand how the law operates due to the broad definition of possession. Unfortunately, possessing an illegal drug is not always associated with owning it.
By personal use, we mean that the drugs were not intended to be supplied or trafficked for profit. But the use of dangerous or illegal drugs for personal, recreational use is still a criminal offence and does not amount to a defence.
It’s important to understand that a person can commit a criminal offence by possessing dangerous drugs without being the owner of the drugs. A person who minds a bag containing illegal drugs for a friend, for instance, or who lives in a share house where drugs are present – and has knowledge of their existence – can be charged with possession, even though they did not own or use the drugs.
A person charged with possession in this situation should seek legal advice as soon as possible – there are defences available for those charged with drug possession.
The key factors in determining what sentence or penalty applies are whether you possess the drug/s for personal or commercial use, plus the quantity and type of the drug in your possession.
Penalties for personal use
A person charged with possessing a small amount of drugs for personal use will generally have the matter dealt with in the Queensland Magistrates Court. Penalties for this type of offence include good behaviour bonds and probation. A person found in possession of a small amount of an illegal drug may be given a good behaviour bond and ‘drug-diverted’ by being ordered to attend drug counselling or other forms of rehabilitation.
If a person is charged with having a larger amount of a dangerous drug in their possession their case may be moved from the Magistrates Court to the District or Supreme Court if it’s alleged the drugs were in fact for commercial purposes.
Penalties in the District Court or Supreme Court for commercial possession include imprisonment. If you are charged with a larger quantity of drugs, the prosecution may allege that you had a commercial purpose (i.e. intended to make a profit from the drugs).
Penalties for drug possession for commercial purposes
The offences relating to dangerous drugs and commercial use are set out in sections 5-11 of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld), covering activities from trafficking; supply; obtaining property from trafficking or supply; producing or possessing dangerous drugs; possessing drug-related things; possessing precursor chemicals and drug lab equipment; and permitting the use of a place.
Dangerous drugs are divided into those appearing in either Schedule 1 or Schedule of the Act, with penalties reflecting the fact that Schedule 1 drugs are considered more dangerous. Sentences for traffic and supply of Schedule 1 drugs can be up to 25 years in prison or 20 years for Schedule 2 drugs.
Courts can also impose fines under the Drugs Misuse Act as an alternative, or in addition to, a term of imprisonment.
It should also be noted that under Queensland’s Corrective Services Act, a person sentenced to prison for drug trafficking will receive a non-parole period equating to 80 per cent of their sentence if the court finds the offence is a serious violent offence (SVO). Anyone sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for drug trafficking is automatically considered to have committed an SVO.
Speak with expert criminal lawyers
This post provides a brief overview of the penalties and sentences relating to dangerous drugs but as it illustrates, different factors come into play depending on the quantity and type of drug involved, and its planned use.
If you are charged with any of the offences discussed in this article, it’s important to contact an experienced criminal law firm as soon as possible. At Hannay Lawyers, we are award-winning criminal law specialists with a proven track record in advocating for clients facing serious charges relating to dangerous drugs. We will handle your matter with sensitivity and understanding, so contact our Brisbane criminal lawyers as soon as possible if you need urgent legal help.