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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Drug Offences (WA)


In Western Australia, it is illegal to possess, manufacture, grow, use or supply an illicit drug. Drug offences are listed under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, with penalties ranging from a fine to imprisonment.

Prohibited drugs or plants

The Act contains a list of prohibited drugs that includes cocaine, heroin, morphine, opium and cannabis. A prohibited plant is any plant (or part of a plant) from which a drug of addiction can be derived, including cannabis or opium poppies.

A person commits a crime if they:

  • possess a prohibited drug with intent to sell or supply;
  • make or prepare a prohibited drug;
  • sell, supply or offer to sell or supply, a prohibited drug;
  • use a prohibited drug.

In relation to prohibited plants, a person commits a crime if they:

  • possess or cultivate a prohibited plant, or a drug obtainable from the plant, with intent to sell or supply;
  • sell, supply or offer to sell or supply, a prohibited plant.

Police need to prove the person knew or should have known the drugs or plants were prohibited drugs or plants.

Possession of a prohibited drug for personal use is a simple offence, dealt with by a Magistrates Court. The maximum penalty is a $2000 fine and/or imprisonment for 2 years.

Possession with intent to sell or supply is considered a much more serious offence, and carries a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 25 years.

Use or administration of a prohibited drug is a simple offence, dealt with by a Magistrates Court. The maximum penalty is a $2000 fine and/or imprisonment for 2 years.

Supplying a prohibited drug

“Supply” has a broad definition under the Act and a person can be guilty of a supply offence even when no drugs or money have been exchanged. Supply of a prohibited drug to someone else means to:

  • deliver;
  • dispense;
  • distribute;
  • forward or pass;
  • furnish or give;
  • make available or offer;
  • provide;
  • return or send.

Supplying can occur when a person agrees or offers to supply, even when the act does not eventuate, or when a person is knowingly involved in supply, such as introducing someone to a drug dealer.

Cultivating a prohibited plant

“Cultivation” also has a broad meaning under the Act. It includes:

  • growing a plant;
  • sowing seed;
  • planting;
  • nurturing by watering or fertilising;
  • harvesting.

Cultivation of a prohibited plant carries a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 25 years. Cultivation of cannabis leaf with intention to sell or supply has a lesser maximum penalty of $20,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 10 years.

Cultivation of a small amount of prohibited plant can be dealt with by the Magistrates Court. The maximum penalty is a $5000 fine and/or imprisonment for 4 years, or if the cultivation is for personal use, the maximum penalty is halved.

Children

If offences involve children (those aged under 18), much higher penalties apply. A child will not be held responsible for involvement with prohibited drugs or plants.

A sentence of imprisonment is mandatory for a person found guilty of selling, supplying, or offering to sell or supply a prohibited drug or prohibited plant to a child. This applies even for a first offence. A second offence earns a mandatory minimum  6 months in prison. Unlike for a first offence, this sentence cannot be suspended or served part-time.

If the possession or cultivation of a prohibited drug or plant endangers the life, health or safety of a child aged under 16, a term of imprisonment is mandatory. A second offence earns a mandatory minimum 6 months in prison. Unlike for a first offence, this sentence cannot be suspended or served part-time.

If a child aged under 16 is injured due to a person’s use, possession, manufacture or cultivation of a prohibited drug or plant (by ingesting pills, for example), a mandatory minimum 12 months in prison applies.

Psychoactive substances

A psychoactive substance is a drug of addiction that can result in effects such as hallucinations, and significant disturbance in motor function, thinking, behaviour, perception, awareness or mood.

These substances include PCP, LSD, ecstasy/MDMA, GHB, methamphetamine (ice/speed), ketamine, mescaline, methadone and coca leaf.

If a person makes, sells or supplies a psychoactive substance, they face a maximum penalty of a fine of $48,000 and/or imprisonment for 4 years.

If a person promotes a psychoactive substance to a person, or provides information on how or where to acquire a psychoactive substance, they face a maximum penalty of a fine of $24,000 and/or imprisonment for 2 years.

Abetting offences

The Act includes offences that capture behaviour that promotes or condones involvement in drugs. For instance:

  • under section 5, if a person who owns, rents out or lives at a home knowingly allows it to be used to make or prepare a drug for use, or to make, prepare, sell, supply or use a drug, they commit an offence.
  • Under section 7B, if a person sells any implement that can be used to administer a drug, including by smoking, inhaling or ingesting, they commit an offence.

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