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Drug Offences

Possession and Supply

 

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1990 (NT) (MDA) criminalises the possession and supply of substances defined as ‘dangerous drugs’. Dangerous drugs are listed in two separate schedules, schedule 1 and schedule 2. Schedule 1 drugs are penalised more harshly than schedule 2 drugs. 

 

Schedule 1 includes drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine, cocaine, ketamine, and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Schedule 2 includes cannabis and prescription substances such as fentanyl and morphine. The use of prescription substances is not a crime if they are taken in accordance with the lawful directions of a qualified medical practitioner. 

 

Possession and supply are both complicated concepts at law. Possession is distinct from ownership and does not need to involve physical custody. The legal definition of supplying drugs is far more broad than what most would consider a ‘drug deal’. For example, if a person shares their drugs with their friends free of charge, or transports drugs from one place to another for someone else, they can be found guilty of supplying drugs. If a person possesses a certain amount of a drug they will be presumed to have it for the purpose of supply. The greater the quantity of the drugs involved, the more serious the charges will be.

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If a finding of guilt is recorded, mandatory sentencing provisions have the potential to apply to almost any offence under the MDA. Most commonly these operate where a person has a prior offence against the MDA or the offence for which they are being sentenced carries a maximum term of imprisonment of more than seven years. If this is the case then a court is required to impose a sentence of 28 days imprisonment, unless sufficient ‘particular circumstances’ can be demonstrated on behalf of the offender.


There are numerous provisions and principles that police, forensic experts, and prosecutors must adhere to in order to satisfy the legal requirements involved in successfully prosecuting an offence against the MDA. Given the complexity of the law and the serious consequences involved it is recommended that anyone charged under the MDA seek expert legal advice at an early stage.

This content is intended as general legal information only and should not be considered as legal advice relevant to any particular case. Territory Criminal Lawyers takes no responsibility or liability for any legal decisions based in whole or in part upon this legal information.

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