This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit legalaid.vic.gov.au, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

Psychoactive drugs

Information about offences relating to psychoactive drugs and how they are defined.

Because of the pace of synthetic drug development, parliament has found it impossible to keep up. To deal with this problem from 1 November 2017 new offences have been created that make it an offence to produce, sell, advertise or commercially supply substances based on its effect (or stated effect) when consumed. This is in addition to the current offences, which apply to drugs based on their chemical composition.

Note many psychoactive substances are already prohibited under Schedule 11 and are based on their chemical composition. These new offences have been enacted to fill any gaps and not replace the existing offences relating to particular psychoactive drugs.

What is a psychoactive substance?

A psychoactive substance is one that:

  • has a psychoactive effect when consumed
  • represented as having a psychoactive effect when consumed.

This includes when the substance is mixed with another substance.

Exceptions

The definition specifically excludes:

  • a drug of dependence
  • poison or controlled substance
  • volatile substance
  • medicinal cannabis
  • registered therapeutic goods
  • food
  • alcohol
  • tobacco
  • veterinary or agricultural products
  • plant fungus or extracts from these
  • prescribed drugs
  • drugs exempted under ss. 18, 18A or approved under ss. 19, 19A Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

See s 4—Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What is a psychoactive effect?

A psychoactive effect that a person may have is:

  • stimulation or depression of a person's central nervous system resulting in hallucinations or in a significant disturbance in the thinking, behaviour, awareness, mood, perception or motor function (person's ability to move) or
  • causing a state of dependence or psychological addiction.

See s. 4—Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Consuming a drug

A drug can be consumed by eating, injecting, inhaling, smoking or inhaling fumes caused by heating or burning the substance. It includes applying the drug externally to the body and any other means of introducing the substance into any part of the body.

See s. 4—Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Offences relating to psychoactive drugs

Production

It is an offence to produce a substance that the person knows or suspects is a psychoactive substance. Production can include preparation, processing, extracting, refining, packaging or labelling.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is:

  • 240 penalty units for a natural person, and/or 2 years prison
  • 1200 penalty units for a company (body corporate).

See s. 56D—Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Sale or supply

It is an offence to sell or supply a substance that the person knows or suspects is a psychoactive substance.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is:

  • 240 penalty units for a natural person, and/or 2 years prison
  • 1200 penalty units for a company (body corporate).

See s. 56E—Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Advertising

It is an offence to display an advertisement in a public place (including a vehicle or vessel) if there is a risk that the advertisement will promote the consumption, sale or supply of a psychoactive substance.

An advertisement is defined very broadly. It can include any words, whether spoken or written, any picture, representation or design by any means at all.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is:

  • 240 penalty units for a natural person, and/or 2 years prison
  • 1200 penalty units for a company (body corporate).

See s. 56F—Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)

  • s. 4—defines 'psychoactive effect' and 'psychoactive substance'
  • Part IIIA—psychoactive substances
  • s. 56A—defines 'advertisement' and 'produce'
  • s. 56D—offence to produce
  • s. 56E—offence to sell or supply
  • s. 56F—offence to advertise

See Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth)

  • s. 18—exempt goods
  • s. 18A—exemption because of an emergency
  • s. 19—exemptions for certain uses
  • s. 19A—exemptions where unavailability of therapeutic goods

See Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Updated