Skip to main content
Commercial supply and manufacture of prohibited drugs

Commercial supply and manufacture of prohibited drugs

Serious offences under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 that are prosecuted in the District Court include commercial and large commercial supply of a prohibited drug and drug cultivation and manufacture.

The Commonwealth DPP also deal with drug offences such as importation of prohibited drugs.
The quantity of drugs involved will often determine how the matter is dealt with. Under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 each prohibited drug is itemised, and a quantity is prescribed for each of the following categories:

  • small quantity
  • traffickable quantity
  • indictable quantity
  • commercial quantity
  • large commercial quantity.

The amount prescribed for each category may be different, depending on the drug.

Less serious drug offences, including possession and the supply of small, traffickable and indictable quantities, can be prosecuted by the Police in the Local Court or Children’s Court. 

The Act (in section 29) says that any person who is in possession of a traffickable quantity of a prohibited drug may be deemed to have that drug in their possession for the purposes of supply. This deeming provision is often used when there is no other evidence of the accused person actually supplying a drug. When s 29 is relied on the person needs to prove that the drug was not in their possession for the purpose of supply in order to avoid a conviction for a supply charge. 


Offenders involved in the cultivation, manufacture, production or supply of large commercial quantities of prohibited drugs or plants face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. There is also a “standard non-parole” period of 15 years imprisonment (or 10 years for prohibited plants). A “standard non-parole period” is a guidepost for a sentencing judge when he or she is deciding how much of the sentence must be spent in custody before an offender is eligible for release on parole. Offences involving lessor quantities have lower maximum penalties.

There are also a number of specific offences with increased maximum penalties for situations where children have been exposed to the cultivation, manufacture or production of prohibited drugs or where an offender, aged over 18 years, has supplied drugs to a person under 16 years. 

When sentencing for drug offences, a judge will not distinguish between different types of drugs according to their perceived dangerousness, as the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 adopts a quantity-based penalty regime. A judge will take into consideration the quantity of the drug and may take into account its purity. The judge will also consider the role the offender had in the enterprise as well as his or her level of participation in it.