Cannabis & Crime

This section provides information about cannabis-related crime (including arrests and trafficking), as well as Australian legislation regarding cannabis use.

The data source utilised in this section is the Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data Report 2016-17. This report contains illicit drug data collected annually by the Australian Crime Commission from state and territory police services, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Services, and forensic laboratories.

How many cannabis-related arrests are there each year in Australia?

Cannabis arrests account for the greatest number of illicit drug arrests in Australia. In 2017-18, there were 72,381 cannabis arrests in Australia. Of these, 92% were consumer arrests and 8% were provider arrests.

Source: Australian Crime Commission (2019). Illicit Drug Data Report 2017-18.

Consumer Arrests: The Australian Crime Commission differentiates between people who have been apprehended for trading in, as opposed to using, illicit drugs. Those charged with user-type offences (possessing or administering drugs for their own use) are classified as consumers.

Provider Arrests: The Australian Crime Commission differentiates between people who have been apprehended for trading in, as opposed to using, illicit drugs. Those charged with supply-type offences (importation, trafficking, selling, cultivation and manufacture) are classified as providers.

How much cannabis is seized by police each year in Australia?

In 2017-18, there were 59,139 cannabis seizures in Australia, amounting to a total weight of 8,656 kilograms. This represents a 1.4% decrease in the number of seizures, but a 14.7% increase in weight. The largest proportion of cannabis seizures occurred in New South Wales (30%), but Queensland accounted for the largest proportion of the weight of cannabis seized (30%). 

Source: Australian Crime Commission (2019). Illicit Drug Data Report 2017-18 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding.

How much cannabis is trafficked each year in Australia?

In 2017-18 there were a record 17,383 cannabis border detections in Australia - a 58% increase from the detections reported in 2016-17. These detections amounted to a total weight of 580 kilograms – a 466% increase from 2016-17.

There were 49 cannabis detections weighing one kilogram or more in 2017-18. Combined, these 49 detections weighed 238 kilograms and accounted for 41% of the total weight of cannabis detected in 2017–18.

Source: Australian Crime Commission (2019). Illicit Drug Data Report 2017-18.

How does cannabis use affect a person’s driving ability?

Cannabis use can impair:

  • reaction time
  • decision-making
  • time and distance perception
  • short-term memory
  • hand-eye coordination
  • concentration.

As a result, driving under the influence of cannabis can increase the risk of a crash by up to 300%. Furthermore, driving skills can be negatively affected for up to five or more hours after using cannabis. Using cannabis and alcohol together, even at low doses, also has a larger negative effect on driving than either cannabis or alcohol use alone.

Source: Adapted from the Drug Aware website.

What is the legislation in regard to cannabis use and drug driving?

It is illegal to drive under the influence of illicit drugs (including cannabis) in Australia.  Driving under the influence of cannabis carries penalties including disqualification from driving, demerit points, heavy fines, and/or imprisonment. The penalties imposed vary from state to state, and whether the offender is committing their first or subsequent drug driving offence. 

In all Australian jurisdictions, legislation has been passed that allows for roadside saliva testing for drug driving, including tests for cannabis. 

What are the legal penalties for using cannabis?

Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making or selling cannabis, or driving under the influence of cannabis. There are also laws that prevent the sale and possession of bongs and other smoking equipment in some states and territories. Penalties can include fines, imprisonment, rehabilitation orders and disqualification from driving. Some states and territories have programs that refer people with a drug problem to treatment and/or education programs where they can receive help rather than going through the criminal justice system. Certain states in Australia have passed laws to allow access to medicinal cannabis for very specific conditions.

Source: Adapted from Alcohol and Drug Foundation