Last updated 1 September 2021

In Queensland, illegal drugs are called ‘dangerous drugs’, and the law regulating those drugs is the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) (Drugs Misuse Act). Dangerous drugs are defined (s 4 Drugs Misuse Act) as those drugs and plants listed in sch 1 and 2 of the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 (Qld) (Regulation) and divided into two categories.

The first category (sch 1 Regulation), includes the so-called hard drugs:

  • heroin
  • cocaine
  • LSD (acid)
  • amphetamine
  • methylamphetamine (speed)
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • phencyclidine (angel dust)

Offences relating to these drugs attract the most severe penalties; for example, a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment applies to the offence of trafficking in a sch 1 drug.

The second category of drugs (sch 2 Regulation), contains the remaining dangerous drugs. This category includes:

  • cannabis
  • methadone
  • opium
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines (e.g. valium and serepax).

Penalties for Drugs Misuse Act offences are dependent on the type (sch 1 or 2 Regulation) and amount of the pure drug involved, and (for some offences) whether or not the offender was drug dependent. Schedules 3 and 4 specify the amounts of dangerous drugs which determine jurisdiction and penalty. For instance, for an offence of producing or possessing a sch 1 drug, if the amount exceeds the amount specified in sch 4 (e.g. 200 grams), the highest penalty (25 years imprisonment) will apply. If the amount of the sch 1 drug is less than that specified in sch 4 but is more than is specified in sch 3 (e.g. more than 2 grams but less than 200 grams), the penalty may still be the highest possible unless the accused person can show that they are a drug-dependent person, in which case the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment.

Prescription drugs such as diazepam are listed in sch 5 of the Regulation. Section 124 of the Drugs Misuse Act states the limited circumstances under which it may be lawful to supply small quantities of those drugs.

Controlled substances (listed in sch 6 of the Regulation), such as ephedrine, can also be lawfully supplied in certain circumstances such as in the ordinary course of business to manufacture pharmaceutical products. The Regulation imposes requirements on businesses that sell controlled substances such as obtaining photographic proof of identity from purchasers and completion of a declaration about intended use (an end-user declaration).

The definition of a dangerous drug (s 4 Drugs Misuse Act) includes synthetic or analogue drugs that:

  • have a chemical structure substantially similar to a drug in the schedules to the Regulation (or a salt, derivative or stereo-isomer thereof)
  • have a pharmacological effect substantially similar to those drugs
  • are intended to have a pharmacological effect that is substantially similar to those drugs.

Those who possess, package, market or supply synthetic drugs are therefore being prosecuted if the drug is intended to give the user a similar ‘high’ to an illegal drug.