The Victorian Parliament has passed the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2017, which will reduce the amount of methylamphetamine that would be regarded as a trafficable quantity, and introduce a number of new synthetic drug offences, among a number of other changes. The Bill was originally introduced in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on March 8 2017, and passed through the Legislative Council without amendments on September 7 2017.
In a media release issued after the Bill passed, Minister for Police Lisa Neville said:
“Synthetic drugs are dangerous chemical cocktails masquerading as legal highs. These new offences will put an end to their legal presence on Victorian streets.
Anyone peddling these life-threatening psychoactive drugs now faces tough punishment including two years jail or more than $37,000 in fines.”
Currently in Victoria, the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) applies similar quantity thresholds for a commercially trafficable quantity across a range of illicit drugs with the thresholds for MDMA, cocaine and methylamphetamine set at the same level.
The Bill amendments will see the new threshold for “a commercial trafficable quantity” set at 50 grams (from 100 grams) of pure methylamphetamine and at 250 grams (from 500 grams) of mixed purity methylamphetamine.
A “large commercial trafficable quantity” will be set at 500 grams of pure methylamphetamine (down from 750 grams) and at 750 grams (down from 1 kilogram) when mixed.
The Bill aims to close the “loophole” that allows the sale of synthetic drugs designed to mimic the effects of illicit drugs. According to the media release, synthetic drugs were linked to three deaths in Victoria over a four month period between 2013 and 2014.
The new scheme introduced by the Bill will shift away from listing specific substances as “illicit drugs” by their chemical composition. Instead, the scheme will apply to “psychoactive substances” and will attempt to capture substances based on their effect or purported effect.
In the Bill’s second reading speech, Ms Neville explained:
“It may not always be possible to prove that a new substance has a 'psychoactive effect', such as because there has been insufficient research on the substance to establish its effects. That is why the scheme also applies to substances represented as having a psychoactive effect.
Representations may be explicit. For example, it is intended that oral or written comments likening the effects of the substance to those of another drug of dependence, getting 'high', or helping a person party could be captured under the new scheme. There may also be many other ways in which a substance could be represented as having a psychoactive effect. Packaging that includes images of marijuana leaves or psychedelic imaging and selling a substance in a form commonly associated with illicit drugs such as dried leaves, powder or pills, and even selling a substance the location a substance is sold are further examples of when a substance may be captured by the scheme.”
The new offences will prohibit the sale, commercial supply and advertisement of “psychoactive substances”, with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of 240 penalty units (currently over $37,000).
The Bill is currently awaiting assent.
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Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2017 (Vic), Explanatory Memorandum and Second Reading Speeches available from TimeBase's LawOne service
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