This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Cultivation of Narcotics (Vic)


In Victoria, the maximum penalty for the offence of cultivation of narcotic plants depends on the quantity of the plants being cultivated. Under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, there are three cultivation offences which are distinguished by the quantity of the narcotic plant. These are:

  1. Cultivation of Narcotic Plants;
  2. Cultivation of Narcotic Plants – Commercial Quantity; and
  3. Cultivation of Narcotic Plants – Large Commercial Quantity.

If the quantity of the narcotic plant is not classified as a commercial or large commercial quantity, and the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the plants are not being cultivated for trafficking, the maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for one year or a fine of up to 20 penalty units. This means that you intended to keep the narcotics yourself and not provide them to anyone else.

If the Magistrate is satisfied that the plants are being used for trafficking, the maximum penalty is 15 years’ imprisonment.

If the quantity of the narcotic plant is classified as commercial, the maximum penalty for this offence is 25 years’ imprisonment.

If the quantity of the narcotic plant is classified as large commercial, the maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment and a fine of up to 5000 penalty units.

Armstrong Legal’s specialist criminal law team stand ready to advise you on the ways that you might avoid jail if you have been charged with the cultivation of narcotic plants.

The Offence of Cultivation of Narcotic Plants

The offence of Cultivating Narcotic Plants contained in sections 72, 72A and 72B of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 which state:

A person who, without being authorised by or licenced under this Act

  • cultivates or attempts to cultivate a narcotic plant;
  • cultivates or attempts to cultivate a narcotic plant in a quantity of a drug of dependence that is not less than the commercial quantity applicable to that narcotic plants;
  • cultivates or attempts to cultivate a narcotic plant in a quantity of a drug of dependence that is not less than the large commercial quantity applicable to that narcotic plants,

What Does Cultivate Mean?

Under section 70 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, ‘cultivate’ in relation to a narcotic plant includes:

  • Sowing a seed of a narcotic plant; or
  • Planting, growing, tending, nurturing or harvesting a narcotic plant; or
  • Grafting, dividing or transplanting a narcotic plant.

This definition also allows for other actions not expressly stated in the definition.

Quantities of Narcotic Plants

Schedule 11 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 sets out what is meant by ‘Commercial Quantity’ and ‘Large Commercial Quantity’ depending on the type of drug.

For example, the Commercial Quantity for Cannabis is at least 25kg or 100 plants. The Large Commercial Quantity is at least 250kg or 1000 plants.

What Actions Might Constitute Cultivating Narcotic Plants?

Growing cannabis plants in your garden – either free-range or with a hydroponic set up.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict a person of cultivation of narcotic plants, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • They intentionally cultivated a plant;
  • The plant was a narcotic plant;
  • They intended to, or did, cultivate not less than a commercial quantity or large commercial quantity of the plant (if the quantity alleged is a commercial or large commercial quantity).

Possible Defences for Cultivation of Narcotic Plants

Pursuant to section 72C of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, it is a defence to a charge under these sections that, having regard to all the circumstances, you satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities of the following factors:

  • You did not know or suspect the narcotic plant was, in fact, a narcotic plant; and
  • You could not reasonably have been expected to know that the narcotic plant was a narcotic plant.

It is also a defence if the accused has a licence or permit to produce the narcotic plant.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

So long as the charge is not for the cultivation of narcotic plants in a commercial or large commercial quantity, the charge will generally be heard in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. If the quantity of narcotic plants is a commercial or large commercial quantity, the matter will be heard at the County Court of Victoria.

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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