This article was written by Andrew Fraser - Senior Associate - Canberra

Andrew works in the areas of criminal law and traffic law, providing practical advice in all of his clients’ matters. Andrew has, over many years, developed positive working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates and judges. His no-nonsense approach means he has a reputation for putting forward the best case possible for clients. Andrew has won many matters for his clients, including...

Manufacturing Controlled Precursor For Manufacture Of Controlled Drug


It is an offence in the ACT to manufacture a “controlled precursor” for the purpose of manufacturing a controlled drug. The maximum penalty for manufacturing a controlled precursor ranges from seven to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the quantity of the precursor involved.

What Is a Precursor?

A precursor is an ingredient or substance that can be used along with other ingredients or substances to make an illegal drug. Precursors include things such as chemicals, plants, fungi or other natural organisms.

What Is Manufacture?

“Manufacture” of a substance is defined by the Criminal Code 2002 as any process by which the substance is produced (other than the cultivation of a plant), and includes the process of:

  • extracting or refining it; or
  • transforming it into a different substance.

The Code says that a person “manufactures” a substance if the person:

  • engages in its manufacture; or
  • exercises control or direction over its manufacture; or
  • provides or arranges finance for its manufacture.

The Offence Of Manufacture Controlled Precursor For Manufacture Of Controlled Drug

Section 611 of the Code states that a person commits an offence if they a large commercial quantity of a controlled precursor:

  • with the intention of manufacturing a controlled drug; and
  • with the intention of selling any of the manufactured drug or believing that someone else intends to sell any of the manufactured drug.

The maximum penalty is 2500 penalty units and/or 25 years imprisonment.

Further, a person commits an offence if the person manufactures a large commercial quantity of a controlled precursor:

  • with the intention of selling any of it to someone else; and
  • believing that the other person intends to use it to manufacture a controlled drug.

If the quantity involved is a commercial quantity, as opposed to a large commercial quantity, the maximum penalty is 1500 penalty units and/or imprisonment for 15 years. The maximum penalties reduce further, to 700 penalty units and/or imprisonment for 7 years, if less than a commercial quantity is involved.

The Offence of Manufacturing a Large Commercial Quantity of a Controlled Precursor

Section 610 of the Code outlines that a person commits an offence if they:

  • sell a large commercial quantity of a controlled precursor; and
  • believe that the person to whom it is sold, or someone else, intends to use any of it to manufacture a controlled drug.

The maximum penalty is 2500 penalty units and/or 25 years imprisonment. If the matter involves a commercial quantity, the maximum penalty is 1500 penalty units and/or imprisonment for 15 years, dropping to 700 penalty units and/or imprisonment for 7 years in cases not involving commercial quantities.

What actions might constitute manufacturing a controlled precursor for manufacture of controlled drug?

Examples include:

  • being found in a shed or caravan working with phenyl-2-propanone (P2P), pseudoephedrine’s precursor, which can be used to make methamphetamine without requiring pseudoephedrine, in order to make and sell methamphetamine.
  • going to your friend’s house who makes and sells phenyl-2-propanone and helping them by operating machinery used to make P2P.

What the police must prove

The police must prove:

  • that you manufactured something;
  • that what you manufactured was a controlled precursor; and
  • that you intended to manufacture a controlled drug, and
  • that you intended to sell it, or believed that someone else intended to sell it; or

that you intended to

  • sell any of it to someone else; and
  • believed that the other person intended to use it to manufacture a controlled drug.

Possible defences

A person charged with this offence can defend the charge by arguing that:

  • they were not “manufacturing” anything, as per the definition in the Code;
  • that the substance is not a precursor;
  • that they had no intention or belief that the drug would be sold.

Which court will hear your matter?

The more serious of the precursor charges – those carrying maximum penalties of more than 10 years’ imprisonment – are strictly indictable and must be decided in the ACT Supreme Court. The seven-year offences can be dealt with in the ACT Magistrates Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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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