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Proposed Changes to Cannabis Offences

The South Australian Government has recently announced plans to dramatically increase the penalties for cannabis possession, stating that marijuana offences should be treated similarly to offences related to other controlled and illegal substances.

The Current Laws

Section 33L of the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) outlines the penalties for possession of cannabis, being a maximum fine of $500.00.

A “simple cannabis offence” is deemed by the Controlled Substances (Controlled Drugs, Precursors and Plants) Regulations 2014 (SA) to be the possession of a quantity of cannabis of 100 grams or less.

Pursuant to the Expiation of Offences Act 1996 (SA), a “simple cannabis offence” may be finalised by way of an expiation notice. Payment of the expiation notice generally precludes the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Police from commencing action in Court against an offender.

An expiable offence for possession will cost an offender $150.00 for possession less than 25 grams, or $300.00 for possession greater than 25 grams but less than 100 grams.

The Proposed Changes

Under the proposed laws, the South Australian Government seeks to increase the maximum fine for cannabis possession to $2,000.00. A penalty of a maximum of two (2) years imprisonment is an alternative penalty to a fine.

The proposed amendments bring the possession of cannabis in line with the penalties for the possession of illicit substances such an ecstasy, MDMA and heroin.

Effect of the Proposed Changes

It is entirely unclear at this stage whether the possession of cannabis will retain its status as a “simple possession offence”.

Given Parliament’s intention to treat the possession of cannabis the same as the possession of other controlled and illicit substances, and the potential gaol time attaching to the offence, it is unlikely that such an offence will be dealt with by way of an expiation notice in the future.

In this respect, it is more likely than not that the possession of cannabis pursuant to section 33L will require offenders to finalise all matters in Court, as with other possession offences.

The proposed changes to cannabis possession laws may prove difficult to navigate, but we’re here to help. Contact us to speak to one of our experienced Criminal Lawyers before attempting to finalise matters yourself.

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