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Up in smoke – Overview of Cannabis Offences

Cannabis, also known as Marijuana, Weed, Pot, Reefer, Ganga, Bud or Indian Hemp is a psychoactive plant which produces varying intoxicating effects on users through the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is a depressant drug which slows down the activity of the central nervous system.

Cannabis users smoke the dried flower of the female cannabis plant for its intoxicating effects which can last for several hours. While medicinal cannabis has been legalised Federally, this does not mean that cannabis use and possession is legal yet.

Although a doctor may prescribe cannabis, growing or purchasing cannabis for personal use still remains illegal. In this article, we explore various cannabis offences and the associated penalties.

If you have been charged with a drug offence involving the possession, cultivation, purchase, sale or trafficking of cannabis you should contact our Adelaide Criminal Lawyers.

Cannabis Expiation Notices

In South Australia, Police may issue a Cannabis Expiation Notice to an individual who commits a simple cannabis offence. This includes:

  1. possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis resin (hash)
  2. possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis
  3. smoking cannabis in private
  4. possession equipment relating to smoking cannabis such as a pipe or bong; or
  5. cultivating a non-hydroponic cannabis plant

The Expiation Notice may be given to a person directly or by post. If the offence is expiated (that is, the fee is paid within 28 days), the matter is finalised. Payment of an expiation fee is not admission of guilt. If the notice isn’t paid, a Summons to attend court is then issued.

Offence Expiation fee
Less than 25 grams of cannabis $150
Between 25 and 100 grams of cannabis $300
Less than 5 grams of resin $150
Between 5 and 20 grams of resin $300
For smoking or consumption in private $150
For pipes or other equipment (provided it is not for commercial purposes) $150
For pipes or other equipment (if there are other offences) $30
Non-commercial cultivation (1 plant only, but not hydroponically cultivated) $300


Possession and use of Cannabis

It is an offence to have possession of, or to smoke or consume, cannabis, cannabis resin or cannabis oil, or have possession of any equipment connected with smoking or consumption. The maximum penalty is a fine of $500.

Supply or Administer Cannabis

It is an offence to supply or administer cannabis, cannabis resin or cannabis oil to another person or to have possession with an intention to supply or administer to another person. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2,000.00 or imprisonment for two years, or both.

Possession in a Public Place

An offence for smoking in a public place may not be dealt with by way of Expiation Notice. Regulation 15 of the Controlled Substances (Controlled Drugs, Precursors and Plants) Regulations 2014 (SA) says that this includes smoking in a motor vehicle or in public transport which is in a public place. People who are caught smoking cannabis in hotel car parks and similar places may be prosecuted and convicted in court.

Cultivation and Trafficking of Cannabis

In addition to user offences, there are a range of offences relating to the manufacture, cultivation and sale of controlled drugs, plants or precursors.

Under the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA), it is an offence to:

  • manufacture a controlled drug intending to sell any of it or believing another person intends to sell it;
  • sell a controlled precursor, believing that the buyer or someone else intends to use any of it to unlawfully manufacture a controlled drug;
  • cultivate controlled plants intending to sell them or their products or believing another person intends to sell it;
  • sell or intend to sell controlled plants.

Penalties in relation to controlled drugs

There is a distinction that affects the penalty between large commercial quantity and what is considered a standard commercial quantity.

The penalty structure for trafficking [s 32 Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA)] depends on the quantity of the drug. The higher the amount of the drug or plant, the higher the penalty.

Large Commercial Quantities

Offences involving large commercial quantities attract a maximum fine of $500 000 and/or life imprisonment.

Commercial Quantities

Basic offences involving commercial quantities attract a maximum fine of $200 000 and/or 25 years imprisonment. Aggravated offences: $500 000 or imprisonment for life, or both.

Aggravated offences of manufacturing controlled drugs involving commercial quantities attract a maximum fine of $500 000 and/or life imprisonment.

The penalty for an aggravated offence is a maximum fine of $75 000 and/or imprisonment for 15 years.

Less than Commercial Quantities

If the quantity of drug is lower than the commercial quantity, then the penalty for a basic offence is a maximum fine of $50 000 and/or imprisonment for 10 years.

Trafficking in a Prescribed Area

A person convicted of trafficking controlled drugs in a prescribed area faces heavy penalties. A prescribed area includes:

  • Licensed premises (e.g. a hotel licence, restaurant licence, entertainment venue licence, or special circumstances licence with extended trading authorisation, casino licence)
  • An area being used in connection with the licensed premises (e.g. car park)
  • Premises at which members of the public are gathered for public entertainment or an area being used in connection with the premises (e.g. an area where people are queuing to enter the premises)

The maximum penalty for trafficking in a prescribed area is $75,000 or imprisonment for 15 years or both. For an aggravated offence, $200,000 or imprisonment for 25 years, or both.

If there is any suggestion that the possession or cultivation of less than the prescribed amount is for a ‘commercial purpose’, then the offence attracts greater penalties.

Penalties for Cultivation of Cannabis

Where a person is found guilty of cultivating between 2-5 plants, the maximum penalty in such cases is $1000 and/or 6 months imprisonment. When the number of plants is over 5 but under 10, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2000

If you are able to prove that the plants were for personal use or supply and not sale, regardless of the number, then this penalty will also apply. However, this would be difficult with large numbers of plants.

If a person has no drugs, or only a small amount, but there is evidence that the person has sold or supplied drugs (even sharing with a friend), the person will face a more serious charge and will have to appear in court. The penalties for sale are more severe than for supply.

How we can help

If you or someone you know has been charged with any of the above offences, you should contact our Criminal Lawyers on (08) 8210 5400. We get it done!

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