Changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act

  • 13 August 2019: The Bill became an Act
  • 12 August 2019: The amended Bill received royal assent
  • 7 August 2019: The Bill was read for the third and last time

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2019 passed on 7 August 2019 and came into force on 13 August 2019.

The Act makes three key changes:

  • classified the synthetic cannabinoids AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs
  • affirmed the Police discretion to prosecute for possession and use of controlled drugs
  • enabled temporary class drug orders to be issued.

The Act is a key step in addressing synthetic drug harm, and implementing a health based approach to drug possession and use.

Class A classification of AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB

The Act classifies the synthetic cannabinoids AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs. This is in response to the advice of the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, which provides recommendations to the Minister of Health on the classification of substances. The Committee recommended the substances be classified as Class A, due to the high risk of harm they pose.

Police discretion

The Act affirms the existing Police discretion. It specifies that when determining whether a prosecution is required in the public interest for personal drug possession and use, consideration should be given to whether a health approach is more beneficial.

The discretion emphasises the Government’s health based approach to personal drug use, and reinforces the Police focus on those who profit from drug dealing and not those who use illicit drugs.

Temporary class drug orders

The Act enables temporary class drug orders to be made by the Minister of Health. The order immediately classifies a substance for a temporary period, during which the substance would be treated as if it were a Class C controlled drug under the Act. Penalties for import, manufacture, supply, possession and use of Class C controlled drugs would apply to temporarily classified substances.

These changes are being introduced to address the harm caused by synthetic (and other) drugs. They increase opportunities for health and social services to be provided to users, and focus enforcement efforts on suppliers.

Misuse Of Drugs Amendment Act 2019 Post-Implementation Review

An interim review of the impacts of these amendments was carried out in 2020, to understand whether the amendment has been successful in supporting a health-based approach to drug-harm reduction and minimising the interaction of people with a drug harm issue with the criminal justice system.

Read more about the interim review, and the accompanying report:

In this section

  • The Misuse of Drugs Act enables temporary class drug orders to be made by the Minister of Health. An order immediately classifies a substance that may have a risk of harm to the public, as a temporary class drug under the Act for a period of one year. Read more
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