Category Archives:Drug Manufacture

Renewed Calls for Pill Testing After NBOMe Found in Deadly ‘Ecstacy’ Batch

The toxic psychedelic NBOMe is continuing to take Australian lives as users of illicit drugs are unaware that the synthetic substance may be added to MDMA or LSD.

Recently, a batch of ecstacy pills linked to the deaths of three Melbournians were found to contain traces of MDMA mixed with NBOMe. The mix was also found in substances tested by Queensland police after a death and several hospitalisations on the Gold Coast last year.

Presence of NBOMe on the rise

Although there is little data on the prevalence on NBOMe use in Australia, Google Trends suggests that interest in the drug began in April 2012, and has been increasing ever since.

NBOMe can be purchased through websites that sell “research chemicals”, as well as online drug marketplaces on the ‘dark net’. Because the drug is potent in miniscule quantities and has virtually no scent, it is often transported undetected via regular mail services.

The effects of the drug are reported to be more similar to LSD than MDMA, and only tiny doses are required. A dose of MDMA, for example, is 125mg, whereas people have reported NBOMe as being active at just 0.05mg. The drug’s high potency increases the likelihood of overdose.

Synthetic drugs

Media and government reports often distinguish ‘synthetic drugs’ such as NBOMe from other commonly used substances such as LSD, MDMA and methamphetamine.

The distinction is misleading as the latter three drugs are also produced synthetically, as opposed to those derived from plants such as cocaine, heroin and of course cannabis.

A better definition of synthetic drugs is those manufactured using legal substances, which produce effects similar to illegal drugs.

Indeed, the category of “analogue” has been added to the schedule of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985, which refers to synthetic substances which are chemically similar to illicit drugs and produces a psychotropic; essentially mimicking drugs which are illegal.

Overdoses

ABC’s 7:30 programme has reported on three Australian teenagers who lost their lives after using NBOMe.

Nick Mitchell of Gosford, NSW, reportedly died after experiencing respiratory and heart problems, while Preston Bridge and Henry Kwan died after jumping from balconies during psychotic episodes.

It was reported that all three young men had consumed an LSD-like substance, suspected to be NBOMe after no LSD was found in their bodies following toxicological examination.

“At a strong dose, users may lose a sense of their self in the world”, explained Dr Monica Barratt, Research fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW.

“For some people who aren’t anticipating that experience, that is very difficult for them to cope with, they may end up with psychotic symptoms”.

“The world around them as they know it is falling apart. It really plays with your sense of time.”

Harm minimisation

There are concerns of drug suppliers continuing to “contaminate” ecstacy pills and LSD with NBOMe, which is a lot cheaper to purchase.

Unlike LSD, which has a relatively low toxicity profile, NBOMe is said to carry serious health risks.

Individuals have presented to emergency departments with acute NBOMe toxicity, experiencing symptoms such as cardiovascular complications, agitation, seizures, hypothermia, metabolic acidosis (when the kidneys can’t remove enough acid from the body), organ failure and even death.

While some politicians and police continue to defend the failed war against drugs, health experts have renewed their calls for harm minimisation measures such as pill testing at music festivals and other major events to reduce the incidence of overdoses.

Anex, a not-for-profit harm minimisation organisation in Victoria, recently launched a campaign aimed at informing LSD users that NBOMe may be contained in their drugs, and encouraging them to purchase and use legally available drug testing kits. The organisation advises users not to ingest the drug if it does not test positive for LSD.

They further recommend that if a testing kit is not available, users should only take a quarter dose and wait one-and-a-half hours before considering taking any more.

Bad Batch of ‘Ecstacy’ Blamed for 20 Hospitalisations

By Zeb Holmes and Ugur Nedim

A bad batch of ecstasy is believed to be responsible for up to 20 overdose deaths in Melbourne’s inner south-east. Police are concerned the batch may still be in circulation, warning party-goers in the area.

The overdoses occurred near Chapel Street in Melbourne from Friday night to Sunday morning. Police suspect the MDMA was laced with GHB or other substances, and paramedics are bracing for more hospitalisations over the summer festival season.

Police response

“There’s a definite chance of there being more,” said Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Dave Newman. “A batch of drugs like this will take a long time to dissipate, or disappear from the scene.”

He urged anyone who experiences an adverse reaction to seek medical help immediately. “Unfortunately, with the nature of this drug, you don’t know what you’re taking,” he said. “And at the moment, there’s a heightened risk.”

Police are awaiting forensic testing to determine the cause of the overdoses – whether it be a high level of purity and/or the nature of additional substances used.

A 30-year-old man was arrested early on Sunday and charged with drug supply, drug possession and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

He will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court next Monday.

Rise in ecstacy use

The use of ecstacy is reported to have risen in recent years, along with an increase in the MDMA component of the drug.

The Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS), which surveys regular psychostimulant users each year, reports that nearly 60 per cent of users now take ecstasy in its purer crystal form.

Research from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre suggests that ecstacy use increased by six per cent in 2016 alone, with 93 percent of users reporting that it is either easy or very easy to obtain. The Centre reported a 70 percent increase over the past five years.

Harm reduction

Professor Michael Farrell is concerned by the risks associated with fluctuating levels of purity and dangerous fillers, arguing for the introduction of pill testing at dance parties and music festivals.

“There may be the possibility that, as we did with needle exchange programs, you make sure that the police stand back and don’t interfere with certain things with the notion that it may confer some benefit and some reduce-to-harm around some people,” he said.

The drug liberalisation group Unharm has been calling for pill testing for years.

“Drugs that should be tested in laboratories are being tested on humans and this is the result,” says the group’s Facebook page. “Like the pollies and police always say, ‘you don’t know what you’re taking’, and that’s because THEY are making it almost impossible to find out”.

NSW government’s position

Earlier this year, NSW Police Minister Troy Grant rejected the introduction of pill testing in our state, stating:

“The number one problem is that what they are proposing is some sort of quality assurance measure for an illegal drug, for drug traffickers, to be conducted by police and the New South Wales Government. Well, that’s just not going to happen”.

Public opinion

Research suggests that a majority of Australians support harm reduction measures like pill testing and needle exchange programs.

The former has been highly successful in preventing overdoses in several European countries, while the latter in the form of the medically supervised injection centre in Kings Cross has resulted in ambulance callouts for drug overdoses reducing by 80% and zero reported fatalities.

Young people are particularly supportive of pill testing; with 82% of 2,300 young Australians aged between 16 and 25 years surveyed for the Australian National Council on Drugs in 2013 being in favour of its introduction.

While Mr Grant argues that harm minimisation measures “send the wrong message”, he seems to ignore the fact young people are taking drugs regardless of the penalties – indeed, drug use is on the rise – and are ending up in hospital or even dead in the absence of a sensible, pragmatic approach.

Police Raid Another Medical Marijuana Producer

Police have raided another medicinal cannabis producer, who gives away her products free to help patients suffering from chronic pain and seizures. On January 4, South Australia police raided the home of Jenny Hallam and seized products and equipment related to the production of cannabis oil.

Ms Hallam is said to have been producing the medicine for two years and been supplying about 200 patients nationwide.

The 44-year-old’s criminal defence lawyer said her client would be appearing in court at a later date.

The lawyer questioned whether Ms Hallam committed a crime, as her client produces the product for people who need it, she doesn’t grow the cannabis she uses to make the oil, and nor does she sell her product.

A spokeswoman for SA police confirmed the home of a 44-year-old woman in the northern Adelaide suburb of Hillier had been raided and said police had seized “a quantity of chemicals and other substances from the address which will be forensically analysed.”

Concerned parents

Since the raid, parents of dozens of sick children have spoken out about the effect it’s going to have on their kids.

Steve Peek from Brisbane has an eight-year-old daughter Suli who relies on medicinal cannabis to control her seizures. He told the ABC that he’d contacted the SA police who told him they had “done the wrong thing but they had no choice because a complaint had been made.”

The police suggested Mr Peek contact the South Australian ombudsman about the matter.

An unlikely advocate

Since the raid, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has stepped up as an unexpected advocate for medical marijuana. She announced on Sunday that she’d been in contact with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull calling for an amnesty for producers and users of medicinal cannabis.

Ms Hanson declared on her Facebook page that she has been a long-time advocate of the medicine, “due to its effective relief for so many ailments, conventional drugs can’t offer.”

Ms Hanson is not the only conservative politician to have thrown their weight behind legalised medicinal cannabis. A turning point for many was when then-prime minister Tony Abbott supplied a letter supporting medical marijuana for radio presenter Alan Jones to read on air in September 2014.

Legalising medical marijuana

In February last year, federal parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 allowing for the legal cultivation, manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana.

Under the new system – which came into effect on October 30 last year – businesses can apply for a licence to grow the plant for medicinal purposes. However, many in the community are asking what current medicinal cannabis patients are meant to do while they wait for the legalised products to be rolled out.

The raid on a Newcastle medicinal cannabis dispensary

Last week’s raid follows a similar incident in December when NSW police raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Newcastle. Two hundred and fifteen plants were seized from a hydroponic operation run by a local group called the Church of Ubuntu.

Co-founder of the church Karen Burge told Sydney Criminal Lawyers at the time that they’d been supplying small plants for cancer patients and parents of children with epilepsy to grow at home.

The church was one of the largest suppliers in the country with 2,000 patients.
Ms Burge added that the authorities were well aware of their two year long operation as they’d contacted premier Mike Baird about it in early 2015.

The Hemp party weighs in

Secretary of the Australian Hemp party Andrew Kavasilas said that the raid on Jenny Hallam’s house was terrible. But he expects the police will continue carrying out operations like these.

“It seems this is a sign of the time. This is obviously going to happen more and more over the next ten to twenty years,” Kavasilas told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “Because that’s how long medical cannabis will take to get up and going.”

Kavasilas said a situation will arise where more and more courts and police are going to be wasting their time in pursuing medicinal cannabis producers. “You’ll find that courts find no criminal activity, no criminal intent. So by and large, the criminal justice system doesn’t apply to them and they’ll be treated with leniency,” he outlined.

According to Kavasilas there are around 1,000 medical marijuana supply outlets around the country, and more than 100,000 patients using the medicine at the moment. He added that the laws that have been changed and the amendment of the Narcotics Act has done “nothing to address” these patients concerns.

Advocates call for immediate access

Medicinal cannabis advocates in Queensland are calling on the government to legalise the medicine immediately. In October last year, legislation was passed before state parliament that will allow Queensland doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients as of March.

But advocates are saying the wait could actually cost lives.

While in NSW, the state government is conducting several medicinal cannabis trials on chemotherapy patients and children with epilepsy. But again, advocates point out that these programs are slowing down access to the products for patients who need them now.

Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, has questioned why certain trials need to be carried out when a 2012 study identified 82 favourable controlled trials had been held around the world, and only nine unfavourable ones.

However, the doctor has also pointed out that there is a need for continued trials into areas that haven’t been thoroughly researched as yet.

The federal government’s medical marijuana adviser

Questions have also been raised over the appointment of doctor Andrew Southcott to the chair of the new Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis. The former Liberal MP has previously said the drug is “not safe.”

In 2011, when Southcott was the opposition’s spokesperson on primary healthcare, he criticised the “normalisation” of the plant, in response to a Food Standards Australia New Zealand review of the use of hemp as food.

Interim measures

The answer to the current medicinal marijuana access problem is interim measures, according to Kavasilas. He believes the government should sit down with advocates like the HEMP party and discuss what measures could be taken now.

Then the government could take these guidelines to the United Nations and explain that this “is what Australia intends to do in the interim while companies materialise and produce these medical cannabis products,” Kavasilas said

“Bearing in mind that years or decades of medical research in the future may just show that conventional raw cannabis products are far superior to pharmaceutical ones,” he concluded.

Government’s New Weapon for Locating Drug Labs

The Australian Government has released its annual Illicit Drug Data Report (IDDR) which shows an alarming spike in the number of drug hauls and arrests, as well as drug use in a number of categories.

Drug seizures are up more than 13% and drug arrests are up almost 20% on figures from last year.

But while cannabis remained the most frequently confiscated drug in Australia, the number of heroin-related arrests fell to their lowest level in a decade.

Numbers from around the nation

The report shows that the highest number of arrests were for cannabis at 56.1%. In second place were amphetamine-type stimulates (ATS) particularly ‘ice’, at 26.5%.

South Australia had the highest proportion of arrests related to cannabis at 85.4%.

In Victoria, the proportion of ATS arrests was higher than any other state at more than 37%, and Victoria also recorded the highest proportion of heroin and other opioids at 4.8 %.

New South Wales recorded the highest percentage of cocaine arrests at 3.8%, while in Western Australia, 23.7% of drug arrests were related to “other and unknown” drugs.

Overall drug arrests have increased significantly over the past decade.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the numbers equated to 290 seizures and 367 arrests per day.

The report is released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). It is compiled from law enforcement data, and is said provide a “clear snapshot of illegal drug use and supply in Australia” in order to help guide resources and funding aimed at combating the issue.

Waste water testing – the government’s new weapon

This year for the first time, the report incorporated data extracted from waste water analysis, (sewerage testing) which showed that ice use in the community has increased significantly since 2010.

Minister Keenan claims waste water testing will help police to locate illegal clandestine laboratories, and “will help us identify which drugs are being supplied and which drugs are increasing or decreasing in usage.”

Mr Keenan pointed out that the ice taskforce recommends greater use of waste water testing. In the past, drug users themselves were the main source of information about the prevalence and location of drug labs. But wastewater testing suggests that such data is wildly inaccurate, with usage dramatically under-reported, which is no surprise given that drug possession is still a crime in Australia.

Indeed, the waste water data supports what drug reform experts have suspected – that methamphetamine use is on the rise.

Professor Jason White of the University of South Australia, a state where a lot of the waste water testing has been conducted, estimates there has been a greater than three-fold increase in the use of methamphetamines over the past five years.

The government recently announced that it will invest an extra $3.6 million towards waste water testing, hoping to localise testing to such an extent that the location of labs will be easier to determine.

Australia an ‘attractive market’ for drug suppliers

ACIC says that because Australia is isolated, it is an attractive market for drug enterprises.

It believes organised crime and transnational crime groups continue to be the main players in the market.

Decriminalisation not on the agenda

Mr Keenan said that despite the prevalence of drug use in Australia, and the success of decriminalisation in some other countries, moving away from a punitive approach towards drug use is not on the agenda here. He added that neither are tougher penalties for drug offences.

Keenan said he believes there is a need to continue to educate Australians on the detrimental effect drug use on their physical and mental wellbeing.

In line with that strategy, Federal Government made its most significant investment ever in drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Australia’s history last year.

Keenan said he is hopeful that over time, “that multi-faceted approach will pay dividends.”

Top 5 Dumbest Drug Offenders

Smuggling and dealing drugs is a risky business – so naturally you would assume that those who do it would take extra precautions to prevent them from getting caught, right?

Wrong!

Here we share the stories of five of the dumbest drug offenders.

1. Water Leak Leads to Drug Bust

Police had already received reports of suspicious people entering and leaving unemployed bodybuilder Bektash Keshavarzi’s Ryde apartment – but his operation unravelled spectacularly when a downstairs neighbour reported a water leak emanating from his unit.

Police obtained a warrant to search the unit; only to discover that it was completely empty – except for several safes, heightening police suspicions and triggering a surveillance operation. The apartment was leased to Mr Keshavarzi under a false name – and police soon discovered that Keshavarzi was renting a number of other apartments on Sydney’s north shore, well beyond his means.

Upon searching a property in Gladesville, police found a large amount of drugs including 88 kilograms of methamphetamine (‘ice’) and $330,090 in cash, as well as quantities of pseudoephedrine – a precursor used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. A raid on his unit at Mowbray Road, Artarmon also uncovered a number of false identity documents and over $12,000 in cash.

It is one of the biggest drug busts in Sydney in recent times.

Keshavarzi was charged with manufacturing a large commercial quantity of methylamphetamine, supplying a large commercial quantity of MDMA, and numerous fraud offences.

He appeared before Sydney’s Central Local Court last week, where he was granted strict conditional bail subject to $1 million security.

The DPP has reportedly made a ‘detention application’ to the Supreme Court in an attempt to keep him behind bars.

2. Drug Mule Narrowly Escapes Death

48-year-old British man Colmin Smith may not be the sharpest tool in the shed – but he’s a very lucky man.

Smith made the dangerous decision ingest 239 grams of cocaine packed inside 61 pellets in an attempt to smuggle the drugs from Antigua to London.

But shortly after takeoff, one of the pellets burst inside his stomach. He was able to alert a flight attendant to his sticky situation before losing consciousness.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Bermuda, and Mr Smith was rushed to hospital to have the packets removed. Thankfully, he survived the surgery and was able to make it to Court, where he was convicted of just one charge of possession and fined £471.

According to police, he could only be charged with possession because there was no evidence to suggest he intended to sell or smuggle the drugs to Bermuda.

3. ‘Breaking Bad’ Drug Manufacturer Caught

A Victorian woman who operated a ‘Breaking Bad’ style laboratory – out of a hotel room – was caught after police raided her room, finding a variety of lab equipment and chemicals.

25-year-old Melinda Hansen was charged with drug trafficking and possessing drug manufacturing equipment and documents.

Police reportedly found a wealth of evidence against the woman – including selfies which depicted her with large amounts of drugs and cash.

Numerous text messages exchanged between Ms Hansen and other individuals allegedly supporting allegations that she was a dealer.

4. Drug Dealer Posts Photo of Himself Supplying Drugs to Police

Showing off your stash is not the smartest way to run a drug operation – as one Florida man learned the hard way.

21-year-old male stripper Taylor Harrison made the fateful decision of snapping selfies of him sitting in his car topless, with a pile of cannabis and cash on his lap.

Unbeknownst to him, police were parked right next to him, witnessing the entire photoshoot.

To make matters worse, Harrison then attempted to sell drugs to the police officer, and even managed to snap a photo of the exchange taking place – which he shared on Facebook.

Police arrested and charged him with drug supply, and shared his mugshot on their Facebook page, noting: ‘Since Taylor was kind enough to share photos of us on his Facebook page, we thought we would share these photos of Taylor on our page.’

5. Man Lists ‘Drug Dealer’ as Occupation

25-year-old Richard Phillips’ day started on a bad note after he cut off a police car in traffic.

But things soon went from bad to worse after police followed and observed him dealing drugs.

He was arrested and taken back to the police station, where he was asked to fill out his arrest forms. But in an inexplicable act of stupidity, he listed ‘drug dealer’ as his occupation on the forms.

It later transpired that the car he was driving was stolen.

He was charged with a number of offences, including stealing a vehicle and drug supply.

Ice Dealers to Face Life Imprisonment

Hardly a week goes by without hearing about what politicians are calling the ‘ice epidemic.’

In the latest attempt to address the problem, the NSW government has introduced increased penalties for those who manufacture or supply the drug.

Starting from this month, people who are found guilty of supplying or manufacturing methylamphetamine will face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and fines up to $500,000, up from the previous maximum of 20 years.

What does the legislation say?

There are various penalties for drug supply in NSW, depending on the quantity and the particular drug in question. A supply charge could be for:

  • a small quantity;
     
  • indictable quantity;
     
  • commercial quantity; or
     
  • a large commercial quantity

The explanatory note to the new Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Methamphetamine) Regulation 2015 says that its aim is to:

“decrease, from one kilogram to half a kilogram, the threshold at which a quantity of the prohibited drug methylamphetamine (also known as “ice”) is considered a large commercial quantity.”

This essentially means that now, instead of one kilogram being a large commercial quantity, those who supply half that amount will face a potential life sentence.

Attorney General Gabrielle Upton justified the move by saying that ice dealers:

“profit from the misery and misfortune of others [and] must be held to higher account… We believe serious drug manufacturers and dealers spreading this poison throughout the community must be held to higher account… The ultimate aim is to cut off supply of these drugs, which we know are an epidemic across our state.”

Do tougher penalties really work?

These new laws have been deemed necessary due to the ‘ice epidemic’ that has been ravaging both city and regional areas of NSW.

Increased penalties are an easy way for politicians to be seen as ‘tough on crime’, even though such measures rarely actually work. Rather, they are a simple and convenient way to avoid addressing the underlying causes of drug use, and consequent supply, and to maintain a policy whereby little is done to educate, prevent and rehabilitate.

As we have pointed out time and time again, the idea of ‘general deterrence’ – that is, deterring others from committing crimes – relies on the ability of people to make rational decisions, particularly for offences which require premeditation, and to believe that they may actually be caught.

But many drug suppliers are also users, and for those making decisions under the grip of a highly addictive drug, the deterrence theory is unlikely to have any effect. Others at the top of the drug supply and importation chains believe that there is little to no chance that they will ever be caught. For these people, increased penalties are unlikely to have any effect at all.

Criticism of the legislation

Many disagree with the new legislation, which was passed through Parliament before any proper consultation or debate.

Professor Alison Ritter, Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), says that:

“regulations and laws should be based on best available evidence, and that evidence needs to be brought into the debate about where you set these thresholds, and as far as I can see that hasn’t occurred in this particular instance.”

Sam Biondo, Executive Officer of the Victoria Alcohol and Drug Association, believes that simply punishing people who supply drugs is ineffective, and that we need to look at decreasing the demand for ice.

And criminal law expert Stephen Odgers SC says that “this proposal would be unlikely to have any effect – except to add to the already existing problem of over-crowded prisons”.

Drug defence lawyers

If you have been charged with a drug offence, an experienced drug defence lawyer will be able to explain your options and the best way forward. In serious drug cases, they will often be able to have charges dropped or downgraded due to problems in the prosecution case, or have the case thrown out of court if the prosecution nevertheless wishes to pursue the charges all the way to a defended hearing or jury trial. If you wish to plead guilty, they will prepare your case for court and fight for the most lenient penalty.

Would You ‘Dob In a Drug Dealer’?

Australian politicians and police have waged a ‘War on Drugs’ since the first National Drug Strategy was unveiled in 1985.

But despite consecutive campaigns to curb illicit drug use by imposing tougher penalties for drug supply, statistics suggest that more and more Australians are using drugs.

The latest in a nationwide bid to crack down on drug manufacturers and suppliers is the ‘Dob in a Dealer’ campaign, facilitated by Crime Stoppers and state and territory police forces.

What Does the ‘Dob in a Dealer’ Campaign Involve?

According to the Victorian Crime Stoppers website, the ‘Dob in a Dealer’ campaign encourages members of the community to ‘report information on drug manufacture and distribution to bring awareness to the drug problem.’

Crime Stoppers says that the campaign is focussed on catching dealers and manufacturers, rather than drug users.

The program has already been trialled in a number of other parts of Australia, including Victoria’s Goulburn Murray region, where methamphetamine use is said to be rampant.

Police say that their services are already stretched due to the widespread nature of drug use in many regions, with frontline services facing ‘significant pressure’ when users overdose or engage in violence. They hope that the campaign will ‘relieve some of the pressure on key services’ and aid in ridding the streets of drug dealers.

Northern Territory Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw recently called on the public to ‘dob in’ dealers to combat the spread of ice in the territory. Speaking on public radio, he encouraged people with information on drug dealers – including relatives, children and other loved ones – to come forward to police.

Whilst acknowledging that dobbing in a friend or relative would be a ‘challenging decision to make,’ Kershaw cited information from the public as a driving factor behind increased drug lab busts.

Victorian Crime Stoppers has reported a surge in the amount of information from the public about ice activity, with reports increasing a whopping 427% since the campaign began. The organisation has described the results as ‘very encouraging’.

So, what are the Problems?

Despite the positive reports surrounding the ‘Dob In a Dealer’ campaign, several experts are of the view that programs focusing on enforcement rather than education and prevention are futile and even counter-productive.

At a recent conference drug reform conference hosted by the NSW Bar Association, a number of guest speakers from the health, education and legal professions expressed the view that prohibitionist approaches to drug use have failed and should be abandoned.

A paper published by the Bar Association also suggests that the ‘Dob In a Dealer’ campaign will be ineffective in tackling the problems associated with drug use and availability, and will do little to address problems in the community brought about by the misuse of drugs.

Matt Noffs, grandson of Ted Noffs who founded the Ted Noffs Foundation and Wayside Chapel, suggests that the ‘Dob in a Dealer’ campaign might even end up doing more harm than good. He sees the campaign as a waste of public money, citing the US government’s failed yet extremely expensive approach to tackling marijuana use between 1998 and 2006 by directing advertisements towards young people.

Noffs also argues that despite reassurances by the police and Crime Stoppers, low-level users such as youths may be caught out by the campaign, while drug suppliers and manufacturers escape unscathed. The cost of incarcerating a young person is estimated to be around $150,000 – but it could end up being even more in the long run as it ‘often allows them to create large syndicates and realise a life of crime early on.’

Rather than calling on the public to report those who they suspect are engaged in drug supply or manufacture, Noffs suggests that a proactive approach aimed at treating drug users would be more beneficial and cost-effective, particularly given the huge costs of prosecuting and sending people to prison.

Other Consequences

Besides the potential to unfairly target users, there are also concerns that misinformed or irresponsible members of the public may end up lodging false reports against neighbours, friends or family members without any concrete evidence.

There are additional concerns about members of the public inadvertently exposing themselves to danger by ‘dobbing in’ potential drug dealers.

The problems become even more complex when the person doing the ‘dobbing in’ is a friend or relative of the suspect – in these cases, the ‘dobber’ may be living in close proximity to the suspect, and may even expose themselves or children to domestic violence.

But despite these issues and the views of experts working with those affected by drug use, the government seems keen to push on with its ‘Dob in a Dealer’ campaign and its punitive approach to drug use generally.

Possession and Sale of Drug Paraphernalia: Knowing the Law

It’s common knowledge that selling illicit drugs or having them in your possession is a criminal offence.

But what about items used to consume drugs such as pipes, bongs and other drug paraphernalia?

With an estimated one-third of all young adults having tried cannabis at some point in their lives, and approximately 300,000 people who smoke it on a daily basis, it’s a natural incidence that bongs and other drug-related equipment are also commonplace.

However, in many cases it is illegal to have these types of items in your possession, even in the absence of any illicit drugs.

In fact, if you are caught with drug paraphernalia, or equipment or instructions for the manufacture of drugs, you could face the same penalties that apply in the case of drug possession.

Equipment used to administer drugs

It is illegal in New South Wales to have any equipment in your possession which can be used to administer drugs.

This encompasses a wide range of items, including ‘bongs’, ‘ice’ pipes, vaporisers and so on.

However, it does not include syringes and needles, which may still be carried legally.

It is also legal to carry any form of equipment which minimises the health risks associated with injecting drugs.

Persons who have a prescription for drugs which are otherwise prohibited (such as methadone) are also exempt from these laws.

Further, certain professionals such as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists and nurses are legally allowed to possess equipment used to administer drugs where it is used in the ordinary course of their work.

If you are caught with equipment that may be used to administer drugs and you don’t have a lawful excuse, you could face a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,200.

However, in many cases a good criminal lawyer can fight to have the charges dropped or thrown out of court.

One way to do this is by forcing police to prove ‘exclusive possession’.

To elaborate, where police allege that you are in possession of drug equipment, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had ‘exclusive possession’ – in other words, that it was not another person that possessed it.

This could be very difficult for police if the equipment was located in an area that others could access.

For example, if police find drug paraphernalia in a lounge room or kitchen of a shared house, a good lawyer will often be able to force police to drop the charges at an early stage by pointing out the obvious – ie advising them that the paraphernalia may have been left there by a visitor or another occupant.

A good lawyer can also push to have charges dropped where police have conducted an illegal search, which is a search that is conducted on a ‘hunch’ rather than a ‘suspicion on reasonable grounds’, which is the legal requirement.

Selling drug paraphernalia

If you are a shopkeeper, you may be charged with a criminal offence if you sell ‘ice pipes’ or ‘waterpipes’ that may be used to consume drugs.

Under the law, an ‘ice pipe’ refers to anything that can be used to consume drugs by smoking or inhaling fumes of burnt crystallised or powdered drugs.

A ‘waterpipe’ is a device that can be used to consume drugs by inhaling fumes through water or other liquids.

Ice pipes, crack pipes and bongs are all covered under these definitions.

It’s also important to remember that items will still be considered ‘ice pipes’ and ‘waterpipes’ even if they require modification, adjustments or additions in order to function – so there’s sometimes not much point in trying to conceal the true purpose of drug equipment.

Most importantly, you cannot raise a defence by contending that the paraphernalia was intended to be used for a purpose other than for the consumption of illicit drugs.

To be found guilty, the prosecution must prove that you operated a shop or stall, or that you sold the paraphernalia near and in connection with a shop.

They must also prove that you sold or supplied the paraphernalia in connection with a commercial transaction – this is usually proved by showing that you received cash or some other form of financial benefit in exchange for the items in question.

The maximum penalty for this offence is also a fine of $2,200 and/or imprisonment for 2 years.

Possessing tools or instructions for creating drugs

Finally, you may be charged for possessing tools or instructions for creating drugs.

Examples of tools which may be used to create drugs include pill presses and drug encapsulators.

It is also illegal to possess instructions for how to manufacture or produce illicit drugs, unless you are able to prove that you had a licence or authority to manufacture or produce the drugs in question, or that you had the instructions or tools for some lawful purpose.

Where it is alleged that you actually took part in the drug manufacturing process, you may face the more serious charge of drug manufacturing, which carries heavier penalties depending on the amount and type of drug manufactured.

Again, these offences carry a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a $2,200 fine.

Where to from here?

Except for drug manufacturing, each of the above offences is a ‘summary offence’ which means that they are heard in the Local Court before a Magistrate, rather than before a Judge in a Higher Court such as the District Court.

The penalties which apply for these types of offences are towards the lower end of the scale, however there is still the potential for them to result in a criminal record, which may affect your work and travel plans.

However, with the help of our drug law specialists, you can fight the allegations and avoid a conviction or a harsh penalty.

We may be able to help you avoid a criminal record even if you wish to plead guilty!

As a specialist drug law firm, our experts understand the intricacies of the law and can help identify any weaknesses in the police case and any defences you may have.

So get our experts on your side and take the first steps towards avoiding a conviction.

Drug Manufacture: The Reality of Breaking Bad

AMC’s hit TV series Breaking Bad offered viewers a glimpse into the underground world of drug manufacturing.

In the show, high school chemistry teacher Walter White, better known within his drug ring as ‘Heisenberg,’ establishes an underground methamphetamine syndicate built around his signature ‘blue’ meth.

Throughout the series, Walt and his partner in crime, Jesse Pinkman, narrowly escape prison, largely as a consequence of Walt’s skilful planning and relentless endeavours to protect his empire.

But what penalties could Walt have faced had he been convicted in New South Wales?

In New South Wales, drug manufacturing is dealt with under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985.

Under the Act, a person may be charged with drug manufacturing if it is alleged that they knowingly took part in any step of the drug manufacturing process.

This encompasses a broad range of actions – from directly taking part in the manufacture of drugs, to emptying flasks and disposing of rubbish associated with drug production, to even providing a location for the production of drugs.

Obviously, Walter and Jesse’s actions in cooking up countless batches of methamphetamine would constitute the offence of drug manufacturing under the law.

It’s also likely that Walter’s business partner and drug distributor, Gus Fring, would have been charged with drug manufacturing (amongst other offences) for providing a warehouse to Walt and Jesse to enable them to continue producing methamphetamine.

However, not all activity constitutes drug manufacturing, and you may be able to fight the charges by proving that your actions did not amount to drug manufacturing.

Conduct that does not amount to drug manufacturing includes simply watching the manufacturing process and attempting to produce drugs with chemicals that were incapable of doing so.

An experienced and reputable drug lawyer will also be able to identify any weaknesses in the case.

The prosecution must prove a number of things beyond reasonable doubt for you to be found guilty.

For example, they will need to prove that you have ‘knowledge’ of the offence.

This mean that if they cannot establish that you were aware that your actions were contributing towards the manufacture of drugs, then your lawyer will be able to have the charge dropped or thrown out of court.

So, for example, if you provided premises that were being used for drug manufacture, but the prosecution cannot prove that you had knowledge that they were being used for that purpose, your lawyer will push to have the case dropped or thrown out.

A good drug lawyer will also be able to identify any defences you may have to the charge, which, if established, will result in a finding of ‘not guilty.’

For example, you are entitled to be found ‘not guilty’ if you establish that you manufactured the drugs under duress – in other words, that you only participated in the manufacture of drugs because another person threatened to kill or cause really serious injury to you or your immediate family.

Drug manufacturing is a serious charge, and it is therefore a good idea to have a specialist drug defence team on your side.

This is because if you are found guilty, you could face heavy penalties under the law including a lengthy term of imprisonment.

The actual penalty that you will receive will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of drug, what role you played in manufacturing the drugs, and which court your matter is heard in.

However, the main determining factor when it comes to understanding the type of penalty you may receive is the amount of the drug that was produced.

Maximum penalties range from 2 years imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine for producing no more than a small quantity of drugs (0.25g ecstasy or 1 gram of cocaine or amphetamines) to life imprisonment and/or a $550,000 fine for producing more than a large commercial quantity (0.5kg ecstasy or 1kg cocaine or amphetamines).

In the case of drug manufacture in NSW, the whole weight of the substance containing drugs is taken into account.

For example, if you have 1kg of a substance that only contains 100 grams a pure drug, you will still be charged for the entire kilogram, not the ‘pure’ weight (ie the 100 grams).

This is different to Commonwealth drug offences where the ‘pure’ weight is relevant.

In one episode in season 2, Walt and Jesse produce a total of 38 grams of pure methamphetamine, which made up 17.2 kilograms after being mixed.

This alone would amount to ‘more than a large commercial quantity’ of methamphetamine, and it’s more than likely that had they been caught in NSW, they would have faced a lengthy prison term unless a capable drug law specialist was able to cast doubt on the prosecution case or raise a valid defence.

They may also have faced charges for a number of other offences, such as money laundering which attracts additional maximum penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

While these are obviously heavy penalties, an experienced lawyer who specialises in drug cases will always be able to assist.

They can even make a significant difference if the evidence against you is very strong and you wish to plead ‘guilty’, in which case they will to fight to ‘downgrade’ the charges, to prepare you for court and to push for the lowest possible penalty.

When it comes to choosing a good drug lawyer, it’s important to ensure that they are both experienced and reputable – unlike the notoriously corrupt Saul Goodman who advises Walt throughout the series.

What are synthetic drugs?

Synthetic drugs (also known as ‘legal highs’) are intoxicating substances that are not illegal due to technical loopholes. Synthetic drugs are designed to imitate illegal substances like cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine.

They can come in powdered form, as pills or dried herbs soaked in chemicals.

But the law regarding synthetic drugs that weren’t technically illegal changed in September last year when NSW became the first state in Australia to ban substances with psychoactive properties.

It is now illegal to posses, sell, manufacture, supply and advertise these substances with penalties for possession with up to 12 months imprisonment, and over $2,000 in fines (or both).

This legislation aimed to thwart manufacturers who tinkered with chemical compositions in their products if they were banned, and simply put out a new, modified (and non-illegal) product.

Previously, many of these substances were simply too new to be illegal, under conventional New South Wales poisons categorisation, which worked by adding new substances to a list of those prohibited.

But the flaw with this system was that it lagged behind the changing composition of the synthetic drugs. This meant that only once a substance was known could it be banned, by which time the manufacturers had already had plenty of opportunity to move on and develop new products.

This has resulted in a plethora of legal substances appearing in Australia at an alarming rate.

The new NSW laws follow the Commonwealth government approach for poisons, which ban whole classes of chemicals instead of individual compounds. This means that substances yet to be developed can still fall under the ban.

This move to crackdown on these dangerous substances came soon after the tragic death of Henry Kwan, a bright and talented Sydney teenager close to finishing high school. In mid 2013, after school one day, he took a synthetic drug.

After smashing bottles in his bedroom, he became ill and then started to hallucinate. Despite the attempts of his mother and sister to restrain him, he leapt from the balcony of their home. He landed on his head and died.

The drug he had taken was known as the N-bomb, and he had earlier obtained it from a school classmate. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this story is that drugs like the N-bomb were completely legal, although Kwan’s death was at least the third of its kind.

This number has since risen.

The N-bomb, or 25I-NBOMe as it is more properly called, is a hallucinogen which is 25 times more potent than LSD. Like the N-bomb, most other synthetic drugs can be much more potent than those they are attempting to imitate.

Although many are marketed as harmless, they are far from it. Synthetic drugs have already caused at least five fatalities in last two years.

Although prior to last year, they were easily accessible online or even over the counter in adult stores and tobacconists, retailers are now banned from selling them.

There is no dealer, no middle man and the prices are much cheaper than for some other drugs – N-bomb, the synthetic drug that Kwan took, can cost as little as $2, making them quite affordable for school children.

One emergency doctor lamented in an online newspaper article the days of just heroin or cocaine admittance, as doctors then knew what they were dealing with. But the composition of these new drugs are constantly changing, and can even change from batch to batch.

Medical staff are not aware of the composition of the drug that a patient has ingested, and so have difficulty treating the patient. There is no safe dosage and they can be far from harmless.

The NSW government has published a fact sheet with information about synthetic drugs as well as outlining the harm and criminal penalties that are consequential to the use of synthetic drugs.

Many are sceptical about the success of laws banning synthetic drugs, saying it will just drive the market underground, and will not deter those convinced to get their hands on them.

It is argued that the problem of banning them is not so simple, due to the way that addiction works. Those that are already addicted and unable to buy the product online or off the shelf will simply look to the illegal market to feed their addition.

Henry Kwan’s father warns other parents of the consequences of taking these ‘harmless’ synthetic drugs. He hopes that the tragic story of his own son will at leas serve as a warning to others.