What is cannabis diversion?

Drug diversion programs (including cannabis diversion) aim to divert non-violent drug offenders away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate assessment, education and treatment services. These programs seek to break the criminal cycle associated with illicit drug use by addressing the underlying causes of criminal activity and encouraging offenders to tackle their drug problems early.

The term ‘diversion’ applies to processes that are at the very front-end of the criminal justice system (that is, at the pre-apprehension stage before any formal charges are laid) and are focused on diverting eligible individuals into education and/or treatment services, rather than to alternative forms of processing. In practice, diversion initiatives can be divided into several major clusters of interventions:

  • police drug diversion programs
  • court-based diversion programs (including pre-court and pre- and post-sentence diversions, as well as programs at the higher end of the court system that include intensive pre- and post-sentencing drug court options such as long-term intensive treatment)
  • drug treatment correctional centres which operate at the custodial level

The table below summarises cannabis diversion in select Australian jurisdictions.

For more information about cannabis visit the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC).

Jurisdiction (year of legislation)Maximum amount of cannabis allowed for option of diversionMaximum number of cautions allowedDiversion program description
TAS (1998)50 grams3 in 10 yearsFirst offence: caution plus information and referral. Second offence: brief intervention. Third offence: assessment and either treatment or brief intervention.
VIC (1998)50 grams2Cautioning notice plus voluntary education program
NSW (2000)15 grams2Caution, plus information and referral
QLD (2001)50 grams1Mandatory assessment and brief intervention session
WA (2011)10 grams1 for adults and 3 for juvenilesCaution plus Cannabis Intervention Session