Legal Information


In Australia, it is up to the States and Territories to enact legislation criminalising the majority of drug activity. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is part of the Australian Government Department of Health and regulates therapeutic goods. The TGA also maintains the Poisons Standard, which is made up of decisions regarding the classification of “medicines and poisons” into Schedules, which are then incorporated into State and Territory legislation. 

Commonwealth Legislation controls Australia’s borders, and import restrictions on some substances and plants apply.

Unless otherwise stated, each State’s Schedules also include all substances listed in the Poisons Standard. Note that these are non-exhaustive lists, as the direct scheduling of substances is only one of a variety of prohibitive approaches taken by Australian governments. 


The Poisons Standard notes, “Classification of a substance as a derivative of a scheduled poison relies on a balanced consideration of factors to decide if a substance has a similar nature (e.g. structurally, pharmacologically, toxicologically) to a scheduled poison or is readily converted (either physically of chemically) to a scheduled poison.”


During the mid-2010’s in response to a growth in availability and variety of novel psychoactive substances, Australian Governments defined psychoactive substance as, “any substance that, when a person consumes it, has the capacity to induce a psychoactive effect” and psychoactive effect, “in relation to a person, means:

                     (a)  stimulation or depression of the person’s central nervous system, resulting in hallucinations or in a significant disturbance in, or significant change to, motor function, thinking, behaviour, perception, awareness or mood; or

                     (b)  causing a state of dependence, including physical or psychological addiction.”

This is ambiguous, broad and not connected to an evidentiary platform of public health outcomes. 


If a police officer suspects that you are in possession of a prohibited substance, they are able to ask for your full name and address and you should provide these details.

A police officer can only conduct a personal search if:

  • You consent; or
  • They have a warrant; or
  • You are under arrest; or
  • You are in a public place and they reasonably suspect you have illegal drugs; or
  • You are in a declared designated area allowing the search and you have been provided with notice

A ‘pat-down’ search can occur in any environment, however a ‘full search’ – requiring the removal of clothing – must be conducted in a private environment (usually a police station).

An internal body search is a ‘forensic procedure’ and generally requires an order from a court.

Similar conditions apply to searches of vehicles or other personal property. However, searching of your home generally requires a warrant.

Other than telling a police officer your name and address you do not need to respond to any questioning. Simply reply ‘no comment’ in response to any questions posed by police.

If you are under arrest or you have been charged with an offence it is recommended that you contact a lawyer in order to get further advice.


New South Wales

Australian Capital Territory



South Australia

Northern Territory

Western Australia

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