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4 September 2015— Radical overhaul to ban importation of synthetic drugs

Minister for Justice

Radical overhaul to ban importation of synthetic drugs

4 September 2015

Joint media release

Minister for Justice
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter Terrorism
The Hon Michael Keenan

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
The Hon Peter Dutton MP

The cat and mouse game between law enforcement and importers that tweak the chemical structure of psychoactive substances to import deadly synthetic drugs and avoid prosecution ends today

From tomorrow, Australian Border Force officers will have the powers they need to seize synthetic drugs and prevent them from making it to the street, no matter what their chemical structure.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures) Act 2015 bans the importation of all substances with a psychoactive effect and no legitimate use.

The new laws, introduced by the Coalition Government, close a loophole which allowed criminals to deliberately avoid prosecution by tweaking the chemical structure of an illicit drug to ensure it could be imported into our country.

The new ban will also help stop synthetic drugs from being presented as ‘legal’, and improve our ability to stop new drugs from entering the market, causing harm to our community and wreaking havoc on young lives.

Synthetic drugs are often marketed as legal alternatives to illicit drugs, implying they are somehow safe and credible.

Tragically, we have learned too many times through death or injury to people, especially our young people, that this is not the case. These drugs are extremely dangerous.

These legislative changes put us ahead of the criminals.

Existing criminal laws ban illicit drugs based on their chemical structure. However, the rate at which new versions of synthetic drugs appear makes it difficult for our laws to keep up.

Governments and law enforcement agencies will no longer be trying to play catch up every time a ‘new’ synthetic drug is produced.

Now, rather than law enforcement agencies having to prove that the particular structure of a psychoactive substance is illegal before seizing it, all psychoactive substances such as synthetic drugs will be prohibited from importation unless the importer can prove they have a legitimate use.

If they cannot, the Australian Border Force will confiscate and destroy the drugs before they reach our streets.

The ban also extends to the importation of substances that are presented as mimicking the effects of illicit drugs.

Those who attempt to import synthetic drugs into Australia in breach of the ban face penalties of up to five years imprisonment or a $54,000 fine.