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It is not illegal per-se to drink alcohol, but there are laws which govern how you should and where should you consume alcohol

Our bodies need alcohol, but with moderation. Our bodies need drugs, prescribed drugs, not restricted or illegal drugs. These are opinions we often hear and laugh at, but in serious talk, we know that many crimes are committed with the implication of drugs and alcohol.

It is not illegal perse to drink alcohol, but there are laws which govern how you should and where should you consume alcohol. It depends on the territory and the traditions also affect the rules on drinking alcohol.

Moreover, it is illegal in most territories for a minor, below 18 years old to purchase or drink alcohol in public places. The exemption is when a minor is with his parent or guardian. In Australia, it is even illegal to give drinks in private homes to a minor without the consent of his parent or guardian. Most important, it is illegal to drive vehicles under the influence of alcoholic drinks.

The penalties for these crimes include imprisonment, fines, cancellation of driving license and even disqualification from driving.

Illegal Drugs

The following drugs are some of the drugs that are illegal in Australia. Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making or selling them, or driving under their influence.

  • cannabis, including some synthetic cannabinoids
  • cocaine
  • ecstasy (MDMA)
  • GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate)
  • heroin
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • PCP (phencyclidine).

There are also laws that prevent the sale and possession of bongs and other smoking equipment in some states and territories. (For example, Victoria has passed new legislation that will ban the sale of cannabis water pipes (bongs) from January 2012.)

Drug Offences

Drug laws in Australia distinguish between those who use drugs and those who supply or traffic drugs. The Federal Customs Act covers the importing of drugs, and each state has its own laws governing the manufacture, possession, distribution and use of drugs, both legal and illegal.

The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act (DPCSA) includes these major drug offences:
Use includes smoking, inhaling of fumes, or otherwise introducing a drug of dependence, into a person's body (including another person's body).

Possession is the most common offence. Possession means having control or custody of a drug. Knowledge of such possession must be proven in court. Possession applies both to drugs found on the person or their property, unless it is proven the drugs do not belong to that person.

Cultivation is the act of sowing, planting, growing, tending, nurturing or harvesting a narcotic plant.

Trafficking is a very serious offence. It includes the preparing of a drug of dependence for trafficking; manufacturing a drug of dependence; or selling, exchanging, agreeing to sell, offering for sale or having in possession for sale, a drug of dependence. If this is done in commercial quantities, the penalties are extremely severe.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. Breaking this law carries penalties including disqualification from driving, heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

Some states have introduced random roadside testing for cannabis and amphetamines.

Penalties for breaking laws in relation to alcohol and other drugs

Penalties for breaking laws in relation to alcohol and other drugs may include fines, imprisonment and disqualification from driving.

Drug Diversion

Some states and territories have drug diversion programs that refer people with a drug problem to treatment and/or education programs where they can receive help, rather than going through the criminal justice system.

For information specific to your situation contact a legal aid service in your state or territory.

Control of illicit drugs has been a global concern since the International Opium Commission, known as the Shanghai Conference of 1909. An Opium Conference at the Hague in 1911 drafted the first treaty which attempted to control opium and cocaine through worldwide agreement, by means of the 1912 Hague Opium Convention.

By the terms of the Convention, the parties agreed to limit the manufacture, trade and use of opiate products to medical use, to co-operate in order to restrict use and to enforce restrictions efficiently, to penalize possession, and to prohibit selling to unauthorized persons. From 1920, the Hague Convention was the responsibility of the League of Nations and since 1946 it has been administered by the United Nations.

The second International Opium Convention was concluded in 1925 and came into force in 1928. This Convention established a system of import certificates and export authorizations for the licit international trade in narcotic drugs.

A Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs, signed in Geneva in 1931, introduced a compulsory estimates system aimed at limiting the world manufacture of drugs to the amounts needed for medical and scientific purposes.

 The Paris Protocol 1948 ceded to the World Health Organization the power to determine which new drugs should be treated as “dangerous drugs” for the purpose of the 1931 Convention. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961consolidated and further extended control over the international and domestic drug trades. It sought to limit the possession, use, trade, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs exclusively for medical purposes.

It also combated drug trafficking through international cooperation. The Single Convention was instrumental in prompting a major rewriting, updating and extension of legislation at state level. TheConvention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 further extended international controls to include a broad range of synthetic behaviour- and mood-altering drugs.([2])

Australian drug laws, like those of many other countries, closely followed the development of these international drug treaties. The Australian Government ratified the Hague Convention in 1914 and used it as the basis for extending import controls to a range of substances apart from opium. In the 1920s, Australia prohibited the importation and use of cannabis for non-medical purposes, in accordance with the requirements of the 1925 Geneva Convention on Opium and Other Drugs which was the first such convention to cover cannabis.

Up until thelatter part of the 1960s, few law enforcement resources were devoted to policing the drug laws. This was due, in large part, to there being relatively little use – or public awareness – of illicit drugs. By the early 1970s, however, there was an upsurge in the levels of use of illicit drugs.

A number of studies reported an increase in the use of cannabis and heroin.([3]) The increase in heroin dependence during the early 1970s corresponded with a marked increase in property crime. It was widely assumed that these developments were linked in some way.

The growth in the illicit drug market created lucrative opportunities for organized crime to become involved in the production and distribution of drugs such as cannabis and heroin. A critical event in this context was the murder of anti-cannabis campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977.

This led directly to the establishment in New South Wales of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking in 1979 (the Woodward Commission) and, at the federal level, contributed to the decision to set up the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs (the Williams Inquiry), also in 1979.

The drugs initiatives which found favour during the 1970s and early 1980s generally involved raising maximum penalties, creating additional offences, making offences easier to prove, establishing new investigative bodies such as the National Crime Authority, significantly increasing the powers and technology available to law enforcement agencies to detect drug offences, providing for the confiscation of profits, and investing more resources in drug law enforcement.

The Woodward Commission, the Williams Inquiry and the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking (1983) all offered “more and better law” and improved enforcement as the primary solutions to the problem of illicit drug use.

A change in some of the attitudes towards illicit drug use started in relation to the use of cannabis. In the main, cannabis was little known or used in Australia until the 1960s. Nevertheless the drugs legislation which was introduced in most of the States and Territories towards the end of the 1800s and early 1900s (primarily concerned with the smoking of opium by Chinese people) provided a framework for the prohibition of cannabis.

The first Australian controls on cannabis use were introduced in Victoria in 1928 in legislation which penalized the unauthorized use of Indian hemp and resin. This was followed by corresponding legislation in the other jurisdictions. The penalties relating to cannabis cultivation, possession and use were generally quite severe during the 1960s and 1970s.([4])

The impetus for reform of the cannabis laws in South Australia (see “Cannabis Decriminilization in Australia” below) came out of the recommendations contained in the 1979 report of the South Australian Royal Commission into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs.([5]) The Royal Commission recommended,inter alia, that minor cannabis consumption not be treated as a criminal offence.

In making such a recommendation the Royal Commission was able to cite several overseas jurisdictions, including ten states in the USA, which had taken such a step with apparent success.

This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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