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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77574 Find in a Library
Title: Drugs and the Law
Journal: Australian Crime Prevention Council Forum  Volume:4  Issue:1  Dated:(1981)  Pages:7,9-11,13,15-18
Author(s): J F Walsh
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 9
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This article reviews the existing drug laws of the Commonwealth of Australia and its States in order to clarify present law and thus contribute to an understanding of what legislative changes may be required to meet the country's admittedly grave drug problem.
Abstract: The two major laws analyzed are the Customs Act 1901 (Commonwealth) and the Poisons Act 1962 (Victoria). The powers of the Commonwealth do not extend to legislating user possession, which is under authority of the States. The Customs Act represents the Commonwealth's regulation of the importation of various drugs and meets the country's obligations under drug conventions to which Australia is a signatory. Specific provisions define importation offenses, list prohibited substances, and specify penalties according to the quantity, type of drug, intent to sell, and whether a first or repeated offense is involved. The Poisons Act covers in a geographical way the illegal production, trafficking in, and possession and use of drugs. Possession of opium, heroin, and cannabis are forbidden and the penalties for these offenses have recently been substantially increased. Many of the drug offenses incorporate the doctrine of strict liability in that the prosecution need not prove mens rea (evil intent). The main thrust of the Victoria legislation is related to possession which, as interpreted by court ruling, need not contain as an element any knowledge of the presence or nature of the item. Possession convictions have been handed down by courts because the accused had knowledge of and consented to drugs in the actual possession of another as well as for the possession of utensils used in smoking drugs. Specific provisions against trafficking have been construed to include all persons in the distribution process who knowingly play a part. Over the past few years, the length of sentences has increased in relation to drug offenses; the sentencing provisions of the drug laws are most criticized while concern is equally great in much of the community about the extent of the drug problem.
Index Term(s): Australia; Controlled Substances; Drug abuse; Drug law enforcement; Drug law offenses; Drug regulation; Federal drug laws; International agreements; Policy analysis; Sentencing/Sanctions
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