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Reclassification of Steroids as Narcotics

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Published under Law Reform, News

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November 7, 2014

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In January 2014, the former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell announced that the Government were going to introduce laws to target steroid use and supply as well as alcohol related violence. The laws effectively increased the maximum penalty for possessing and supplying steroids from 2 years to a massive 25 years.

Prior to the amendments, steroids were dealt with as prescription drugs under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966. There was a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment if you possessed steroids that weren’t prescribed to you. The amendments reclassified steroids as narcotics under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. Steroids, which formerly belonged amongst the prescription drugs including Panadine Forte, Valium, Ritalin and OxyContin, now fall amongst the narcotics, which include ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin. The penalties for possessing or supplying narcotics are much more substantial, ranging from a maximum of 2 to 25 years imprisonment.

The table below summarises the drug offences that now apply to steroids:

Offence Section Max Penalty Quantity
Self-Administration S12 2 years and/or 20 penalty units Any
Administration to others S13 2 years and/or 20 penalty units Any
Possession S10 2 years and/or 20 penalty units Up to 50g or personal use over 50g
Supply Small Quantity S25(1) 15 years and/or 2000 penalty units Up to 50g
Supply Traffickable Quantity S25(1) 15 years and/or 2000 penalty units 50g to 500g
Supply Indictable Quantity S25(1) 15 years and/or 2000 penalty units 750g
Supply Commercial Quantity S25(2) 20 years and/or 3500 penalty units 5kg or more
Supply Large Commercial Quantity S25(2) Life imprisonment and/or 5000 penalty units * A weight for large commercial quantity has not yet been defined *
Supply on an ongoing basis S25A(1) 20 years and/or 3500 penalty units Any 3 or more supplies in 30 day period
Manufacture or production S24(1) 15 years and/or 2000 penalty units Up to 5kg
Manufacture or production commercial quantity S24(2) 20 years and/or 3500 penalty units 5kg or more
Forging, altering or obtaining a prescription by false representations Ss16,17 & 18 2 years and/or 20 penalty units Any

A few other things to remember about the drug offences that now apply to steroids:

  1. It is a complete defence to possession or supply if the steroids were legitimately prescribed by a doctor or medical practitioner.
  2. A person can be found guilty of supply if they supply OR if they knowingly take part in the supply of steroids. “Knowingly take part in” means taking, participating in or causing any step in the process of manufacture, production or supply. It also includes arranging finance for any step or providing the premises in which any step takes place. To establish this the prosecution must prove actual knowledge, a belief or an awareness of the likelihood that they were dealing with steroids.
  3. The principle in Hamzy means that individual supplies can be aggregated to increase the charge. For example, someone can be charged with supply traffickable quantity if they supply 20g three times.
  4. The new one punch laws carry minimum sentences where the offender is affected by alcohol or drugs under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act (which now captures steroids). Where police can prove that the offender was on steroids, even if they are not intoxicated by alcohol, the minimum sentences for the one punch assaults apply.
  5. Importing steroids is a commonwealth offence under s 233BAA of the Customs Act. The maximum penalty is 5 years and/or 1000 penalty units.
  6. The Personal Importation Scheme allows Australians to import up to a 3 month supply of therapeutic goods for personal use, unless they are on the list of controlled or prohibited substances. The list includes narcotics, steroids and some prescription medicines. An authorisation can be sought from the Department of Health for the importation of drugs on this list. One of the newest additions to the list is Growth Hormone Releasing Peptides.
  7. The use of illegal steroids and other performance enhancing substances (such as peptides) are banned in many sporting competitions, where competitors face disciplinary sanctions (including fines) and banning orders as well as potential criminal charges.

About the Author

Trudie combines her impressive skills in advocacy and legal analysis with a focus on her client's interests and wellbeing. Her experience working for senior barristers prior to starting at Armstrong Legal gives her a unique insight into criminal advocacy and practice.

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