Possessing drug paraphernalia – what you need to know

Most people are aware that it is an offence to supply or possess illegal drugs. However, you may not be as familiar with the laws around drug paraphernalia. If you are charged with an offence in relation to drug paraphernalia, or any drug offence, consult an experienced drug lawyer in Brisbane. We can help you understand the nature of the offence and any possible defences.

Drug offences

The Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) (the Drugs Misuse Act) covers a range of drug offences. Schedule 1 drugs, which include amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, LSD and ecstasy, carry heavier penalties than Schedule 2 drugs (cannabis, morphine and barbiturates). Within each category, penalties vary depending on the amount of the drug in your possession and whether the court is satisfied that you intended it for personal use versus supplying it to others. For example, supplying heroin to others for money carries a maximum prison term of 25 years, while possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use may make you eligible for a Drug Diversion Order (if certain conditions are met, including that it is a first offence).

What is ‘drug paraphernalia’?

What you may not know is that possessing items that are considered drug paraphernalia may also carry penalties. Not only that, but the definition of paraphernalia may be wider than you realise. If you are unsure about whether you are vulnerable to a drug-related charge, seek the advice of experienced drug lawyers in Brisbane for assistance.

Section 10 of the Drugs Misuse Act makes it an offence to possess various items which are connected to drug offences. These include items commonly known as drug paraphernalia, such as bongs or pipes. It may also include things like a mobile phone, if it is used to supply drugs.

Under section 10(1), it is an offence to possess anything for use in connection with the commission of a drug offence or that the person has used in connection with such a purpose. The maximum penalty is 15 years imprisonment.

Section 10(2) creates an offence where a person unlawfully has in their possession anything (not being a hypodermic syringe or needle) for use in connection with the administration, consumption or smoking of a drug. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.

Section 10A(1) expands the definition of ‘possessing suspect property.’ It includes any property which is reasonably suspected of:

  • having been acquired for the purpose of committing an offence defined in this part; or
  • having been used in connection with the commission of such an offence; or
  • having been furnished or intended to be furnished for the purpose of committing such an offence; or
  • being the proceeds of such an offence; or
  • having been acquired with the proceeds of such an offence; or
  • being property into which the proceeds of such an offence have, in some other manner, been converted

The definition is wide. As well as items commonly associated with drugs (such as a bong, pipe or cocaine spoon), it can include many items that would otherwise be considered very ordinary as long as they are reasonably suspected of being used in a drug-related offence. This might include:

  • Cash received from people buying drugs
  • Bowls or containers used to store drugs
  • Scales used to weigh out drugs
  • Grinders, scissors or other tools used to prepare drugs
  • Clip-sealed plastic bags used to convey drugs
  • A hydroponic set up used to grow drugs, even if there are no drugs found on the premises.

What should you do if you are charged with possessing drug paraphernalia?

First of all, don’t make the mistake of believing that you can just claim the items weren’t for drug-related purposes. If the police believe that you have used the items for drug-related purposes, or that you intend to, you will need to show otherwise. If you can’t satisfactorily explain why you are in possession of those items, you may face serious penalties.

This is why it is crucial that you don’t try and argue with police. If you are charged with a drug-related offence, you should arrange legal assistance as soon as possible. Our team of experienced drug lawyers in Brisbane have experience with all types of drug offence charges, including possession of drug paraphernalia. We will be able to advise you on your rights and whether you have a realistic defence.