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Synthetic Drugs

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Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

10 Practical tips for representing yourself in a drugs charge

Synthetic drugs are an issue currently in the media limelight. Their use and therefore possession is a grey area, the parameters of the offences are not well defined, even for those in law enforcement. Synthetic drugs are currently being referred to and marketed as "legal highs", even as charges are being laid in relation to them.

What is a synthetic drug?

Generally speaking, synthetic drugs are those manufactured with constituents that produce similar effects to already known natural or chemically manufactured drugs. The most obvious of these are the cannabis substitutes. The media have also referred to synthetic LSD – this would appear to be an oxymoron as LSD is not a natural substance to start with. They are often referred to and marketed as "legal highs".

The continual change in chemical constituents has posed a significant challenge to the legislature in relation to synthetic drugs offences as they are difficult to identify and classify. To aid in the prosecution of offences the Parliament has added the category of "analogue" to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act. In basic terms, if the synthetic substance is chemically similar enough and produces a psychotropic effect, then in criminal terms it will be treated the same as the substance it is mimicking.

However, the legislation is relatively new and synthetic drug offences can sometimes be difficult to prosecute and convict.


The Offences

Currently synthetic drugs offences are being charged under the general "possess," "manufacture" and "supply" offences in the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act.

Section 10 of the Act provides that "a person who has a prohibited drug in his or her possession is guilty of an offence."

Sections 24 and 25 provide respectively that "a person who manufactures or produces/supplies ...a prohibited drug is guilty of an offence."

What must the Police prove?

To convict you of a possession, manufacture or supply of a prohibited drug charge under the above sections, the Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  • 1) Either possessed, manufactured or supplied a substance, or knowingly took part in the manufacture, production or supply of a substance; and
  • 2) That substance is a prohibited drug

A prohibited drug is one that is listed in Schedule 1 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act. Schedule 1 also provides that an analogue of a drug listed in Schedule 1 is itself a prohibited drug.

For a substance to be classified as an analogue of a prohibited drug it must:

  • 1) Have psychotropic properties; and
  • 2) Be structurally similar to a prohibited drug prescribed by Schedule 1.

The requirements prescribed by Schedule 1 of structural similarity involve very technical jargon. If you have been charged with an offence relating to synthetic drugs, it will be very likely that an expert witness is required to define and analyse chemical structures.

Interim ban

On June 9 2013, NSW Fair Trading implemented an interim ban on the sale and supply of synthetic drugs for 90 days (with the possibility of a 30 day extension). The ban relates to those substances "of a kind that will or may cause injury to any person." Retailers found to be selling any of the listed synthetic drugs face fines of up to $1.1 million. In addition, Police have warned that individuals found to be selling synthetic drugs may also face criminal charges under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act.

25I-NBOMe: WHAT IS IT AND WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

What is 25I-NBOMe?

Sometimes known as "C-Boom" or "Boom", 25I-NBOMe and its relatives are hallucinogenic drugs which can cause a variety of intense experiences and in some cases render the user completely unable to function. The chemical names as they appear on the Schedule of Prohibited Drugs are as follows:

  • N-(3-methoxylbenzyl)-2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine (25I-NBOMe)
  • N-(2-methoxylbenzyl)-2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine (25b-NBOMe)
  • N-(2-methoxylbenzyl)-2,5-dimethoxy-4-chlorophenethylamine (25c-NBOMe)

25I-NBOMe has a relatively low media profile and only became illegal to possess or supply in 2013. Despite the low profile, there are an increasing number of 25I-NBOMe cases coming before the Criminal Justice System.

What is so concerning about 25I-NBOMe?

The punnishment for supplying a "large commercial quantity" of any prohibited drug is life imprisonment with a standard non-parole period of 15 years.

The "large commercial quantity" for 25I-NBOMe is just 2 grams. This is in stark contrast with other drugs. The large commercial quantity of Ecstasy, for example, is 500 grams. In other words, supply of just a few doses of 25I-NBOMe can expose the offender to the same punishment as for murder.

This is particularly concerning because many users are buying and selling 25I-NBOMe under the mistaken belief that the drug they are dealing with Ecstasy. If you supply 2 grams of ecstacy you may avoid a conviction altogether. If it torns out the drug is 25I-NBOMe you are likely to spend many years in gaol.

What do I do if I have been charged with a drug offence?

Call a lawyer immediately. If the drug happens to be 25I-NBOMe you could face a lengthy period in gaol and need to get good advice from the outset.


The information on this page was correct at the date of publication - 12th July 2013.


where to next?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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