The Hon Michael Keenan MP
Minister for Justice


6 July 2014

Under new legislation to be introduced to Federal Parliament, all psychoactive substances such as synthetic drugs will be prohibited unless importers can prove they have a legitimate use.

The radical overhaul closes a loophole that currently allows people to deliberately avoid prosecution by slightly changing the chemical structure of a banned substance so it can be legally imported into our country.

Synthetic drugs are often marketed as safe and credible alternatives to illicit drugs yet, tragically we have learned too many times through death or injury to people – especially young people – that this is not the case and they are extremely dangerous.

There’s nothing synthetic about the damage these drugs cause. They are not harmless, they are not safe, they have deadly consequences.

The Coalition Government is taking action to shutdown the market and undermine those who seek to profit from this misery in Australia.

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.

Rather than law enforcement having to prove a synthetic drug is illegal, the burden will be placed on the person importing it to prove that it is legal and has a legitimate use.

This means governments and law enforcement are not trying to play catch up every time a ‘new’ synthetic drug is produced.

The new legislation will target psychoactive drugs marketed as ‘legal’ alternatives to illicit drugs like ecstasy, LSD or cannabis.

Importantly, medicines and other chemicals that are imported for proper legitimate use are already certified by relevant authorities – such as the Therapeutic Goods Association. Existing arrangements will continue to apply to these substances.

The ban will not replace existing illicit drug offences. These will continue to be the primary way we deal with illicit drugs and the people who try to import them.

The new ban will help stop synthetic drugs from being presented as ‘legal’ and governments and law enforcement agencies will no longer be trying to play catch up every time a drug with a new chemical structure is produced.

Media contact: Emily Broadbent 0400 390 008