Importing medicines in Australia
People entering Australia can bring a three-month supply of prescription medications if they have a prescription. In all other cases, importing drugs is illegal unless government approval is obtained. Importing drugs is a federal crime governed by the Federal Penal Code 1995.
Serious drug smuggling operations usually involve multiple people working in different ways and at different levels. Drug importation offense prosecutions are often based on the doctrine of conspiracy and collateral liability. Drug importation offenses carry the highest penalties a court can impose.
Drug import offences
The major offenses related to the import and export of prohibited drugs are:
Importing trade volume
Under Section 307.1, it is a crime to import or export commercial quantities of any border-controlled drug or plant. This violation carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or a fine of 7,500 penalty units. To be found guilty of importing a drug in commercial quantities, the defendant must knowingly or recklessly import the substance.
Import of sellable quantities
Under Section 307.2, it is a crime to import or export marketable quantities of any border-controlled drug or plant. This offense carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison or a fine of 5,000 penalty units, or both. To be found guilty of importing drugs in marketable quantities, the defendant must have intentionally or recklessly imported the drugs.
Imports less than sellable quantity
Under Section 307.4, a person commits a crime if he or she imports or exports a border-controlled drug or plant in an amount less than the amount on the market. For this offense, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or a fine of 2,000 penalty units, or both.
What are border controlled drugs?
Schedule 4 of the Penal Code Ordinance lists substances that are border control drugs. This list includes most medicines that are considered ‘illegal’ and many medicines that are not available in Australia without a prescription. As new “designer” drugs come out, they are typically added to border control drug lists.
What is a border control facility?
Section 5E of the Criminal Code lists establishments that are border control establishments. These are:
- Erythroxylon (can be used to make cocaine);
- Lophophora (from which mescaline is extracted);
- Papaver bracteatum or Great Scarlet Poppy (from which opiates are made);
- Papaver somniferum or opium poppy (from which opium is obtained) );
- Piptagenia peregrine (from DMT);
It is illegal to bring border-controlled drugs or plants into Australia in any quantity, but importing drugs in bulk carries harsher penalties. Bulk controlled substances or plants are classified as either salable quantities or commercial quantities.
Presumption that marketable quantity is for sale
If a person is convicted of importing a border-controlled drug in sufficient quantity to market it, the person is presumed to have intended to sell the drug. A defendant can be convicted of importing for personal use if the defendant can convince the court that the imported drug is for personal use only.