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Drugs and breaking the law 

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Please note: If you were arrested or received a Notice to Appear or a Summons before 1 October 2011, the procedures may be slightly different. If this applies to you, you should get legal advice.

There are many drugs that are defined as dangerous drugs, and if you have them (except when lawfully prescribed) you are breaking the law.

The law in Queensland divides illegal drugs into 3 categories:

  • Schedule 1, Part 1 drugs
  • Schedule 1, Part 2 drugs
  • Schedule 2 drugs.

If you're caught with drugs listed in Schedule 1, the penalties are more severe than for drugs listed in Schedule 2.

If you are charged with any drug-related offences you should get legal advice.

What are the most common illegal drugs?

The law in Queensland divides illegal drugs into:

  • Schedule 1, Part 1 drugs
  • Schedule 1, Part 2 drugs
  • Schedule 2 drugs.

More serious penalties apply to drugs listed in Schedule 1 than in Schedule 2.

Schedule 1, Part 1 drugs include:

  • heroin
  • cocaine
  • amphetamines
  • methlyamphetamine (commonly known as ice, crystal meth)
  • phencyclidine (commonly known as angel dust)
  • lysergide (commonly known as LSD)
  • methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy)
  • paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA) and paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) (drugs sometimes sold as ecstasy but more powerful)

Schedule 1, Part 2 drugs includes all anabolic and androgenic steroidal agents.

Schedule 2 is a much longer list of drugs, and includes:

  • cannabis
  • morphine
  • pethidine
  • ketamine

The full list of illegal drugs can be found in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 of the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987.

Drug related offences

You are breaking the law if you:

  • possess illegal drugs. Possession is not the same as ownership. You can be in possession of a drug even if you don't own it and haven't used it. For example, if you know there are drugs in your share house the law can regard you as being in possession of them even if they belong to someone else.

  • supply illegal drugs. There is a very wide definition of 'supply' that includes:

    • giving, distributing, selling, administering or transporting
    • offering to give, distribute, sell, administer, transport or supply
    • doing or offering to do anything in preparation for giving , distributing, selling, administering, transporting or supplying.

    There are more serious penalties if you are an adult and you supply:

    • to a child
    • to a person who is intellectually impaired
    • in an education institution
    • in a correctional facility
    • to someone who does not know they are being supplied with drugs.
  • traffic illegal drugs. Trafficking means supplying drugs in circumstances of a commercial nature, usually involving larger amounts of drugs, or several acts of supply, or an organised business.

  • cultivate or produce illegal drugs. This covers the growing, preparing, manufacturing, packaging and production of drugs.

  • possess things used to take drugs (eg bong, pipe, syringes) or to produce drugs (eg scales, lights, agricultural equipment) if they have been used for a drug offence or are intended to be used for a drug offence.

So, for example, just giving your friend one of your pills is enough for a charge of supply.

If you are charged with any drug-related offences you should get legal advice.


Chroming is when a person ingests or inhales fumes from glue, paint, or some other dangerous substance.

It is not illegal, but the police have powers to intervene if they reasonably suspect that you have a potentially harmful thing on you that you have ingested or inhaled or are about to ingest or inhale (eg if they find you with paint on your lips).

The police can:

  • search you, and anything in your possession to see if you have something on you that could hurt you, or that they reasonably suspect you have ingested or inhaled, or are about to ingest or inhale
  • ask you to explain why you have something on you which could hurt you, and, if you don’t give them a reasonable explanation they can take it from you for good.

If the police are satisfied that you have been chroming and are affected by it, they can keep you from leaving until they can take you to a place of safety (like a hospital or your home) where somebody can look after you and help you recover. Somebody at the place of safety must agree to look after you.

If the police are satisfied from the way you are behaving that there is a risk of harm to other people, they can leave you at a place of safety.

If the police take you to a place of safety, you can leave at any time, unless you are kept there under an order (eg at a hospital under a mental health order).

It is an offence for a person to sell you harmful substances such as paint, glue or methylated spirits if the seller believes you intend to ingest or inhale it. See Trader’s rights.

When can the police search for drugs?

A police officer can:

  • stop and search you if they reasonably suspect that you may have a dangerous drug (including a strip search as long as it is done by an officer of the same sex)
  • stop and search your vehicle if they reasonably suspect that there is a dangerous drug in the vehicle
  • search your premises if they reasonably suspect there is evidence which may otherwise be hidden or destroyed
  • use drug detection dogs in certain places.

The police need a court order to use listening devices, and while the police can order a cavity search, the actual search has to be done by a doctor.

The police may have the power to search you in other circumstances, see when can the police search without a warrant?

Drugs and talking to the police

If police are investigating you in relation to a drug offence, they may require you to give your date and place of birth, as well as your name and address. If you don’t answer, you are breaking the law. You should get legal advice. See do I have to talk to the police?

Going to court for a drug offence

If you are going to court for a drug offence, you should get legal advice.

If you are charged with a minor drug offence, you may be eligible for court diversion.

You may be able to get help from a duty lawyer on the day you go to court.

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Do I need legal advice?

You should get legal advice if you have been charged with a drug offence.

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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may give legal advice about drug offences. We can't provide you with a lawyer to attend a police interview.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or you have an urgent matter, we may suggest you apply for a grant of legal aid (if you are eligible(, or seek private representation, rather than waiting for a legal advice booking.

The following organisations may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most CLCs do not provide legal representation. Contact them to find out if they can help you with your matter.

The Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor who can provide advice and representation.


Before seeking legal advice about a criminal charge, you should collect your QP9 from the police prosecutor at your first court date. If you were unable to collect it at your first court date, you should apply to the police/prosecutions office for your QP9. You will need to present photo identification and a written request to the police prosecutor. Contact your local police station if you are unsure where to apply.

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Who else can help?

The following services may also be able to help you. They do not give legal advice.

Queensland courts provides information about Court Diversion for a Minor Drug Offence.  

Alcohol and Drug Service  provides information, counselling and referral for anyone with concerns related to the use of alcohol or other drugs.

Drug Arm provides a range of services including counselling, family assistance, family support, information and referral and an illicit drugs diversion initiative.  

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 7 September 2011 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.

Last modified: 22 June 2015 1:47PM
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Drugs and breaking the law