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Government to ban the importation of 'synthetic drugs'

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Government to ban the importation of ‘synthetic drugs’

16 June 2013

Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare today announced that the Commonwealth Government will develop legislation to ban the importation of unauthorised psychoactive substances or ‘synthetic drugs’.

The legislation will implement a “reverse onus of proof” scheme.

At the moment, synthetic drugs need to be prescribed in legislation to be illegal. If they are not prescribed their importation, sale and manufacture is not prohibited.

A reversal of the onus of proof will flip this assumption - it will mean that new drugs coming onto the market are presumed to be illegal until the authorities know what they are and clear them as safe and legal.

There are a range of synthetic drugs being sold, including through the internet, that mimic the effects of illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine.

New synthetic drugs, such as synthetic cannabis, are being marketed to the community as a legal alternative to illicit drugs.

A reverse onus of proof in relation to new synthetic drugs is operating in Ireland and is due to begin in New Zealand on the 1st of August 2013.

The Federal Government will work with the states and territories to develop corresponding legislation for a reverse onus of proof for the sale, manufacture or advertising of these substances across Australia.

A co-ordinated national approach to banning the sale, manufacture and advertising of these drugs is vital so that manufacturers are not able to exploit legislative inconsistencies between each state and territory.

A national drug monitoring system will be established to collect and disseminate information on synthetic drugs. This will include the development of a new drug monitoring and information sharing database that makes use of existing intelligence sharing networks and information sources from around Australia and internationally.

The database will be administered by the Australian Federal Police and will provide a secure source of information regarding synthetic drugs including their chemical profiles, street names, potential harms, sources, supply channels and distribution methods.

The Commonwealth Government has already taken a number of steps to control these substances. The Government has:

 Listed several psychoactive substances, including eight different groups of synthetic cannabis, as ‘prohibited substances’ in the Poisons Standard;

 Amended the criminal code and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations to apply controls to synthetic drugs;

 Amended the Commonwealth criminal code to make it more responsive to emerging substances through an expanded emergency determination power and listing a number of new substances of concern.

These measures will be discussed when Police Ministers meet at the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management in Darwin on the 4th and 5th of July.

Media contact: Ryan Hamilton - 0414 599 468 or Hayley Bester - 0477 365 479