Queensland Law Society

Drug laws high on ambiguity

Date 12 Mar 2013
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone (07) 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society said today proposed amendments to Queensland’s drug laws were ambiguous in a number of important aspects, exposing lawful activity to potential criminal sanctions.

President Annette Bradfield expressed concern with changes to how chemicals are defined and the inclusion of nebulous concepts such as ‘derivative’ and ‘similar pharmacological effect’.

“To make matters worse, the legislation provides no answers; for example, you couldn’t ask a solicitor whether a certain chemical was legal as they lack scientific expertise and ironically, you also couldn’t ask an expert chemist as the terms used in the Bill have no agreed scientific meaning,” Ms Bradfield said.

“There are a number of other clauses in the Bill that need to be clarified.

“For example, ‘possessing relevant substances or things’ has a defence of reasonable excuse but no definition on the parameters.

“The ambiguity of this clause is a concern as it also reverses the onus of proof, meaning that anyone charged would have to prove lawful use of the equipment.

“We’ve seen this reversal of the onus of proof in a number of Bills lately and we’re not sure if it’s an attempt to circumvent due process or hastily drafted law.

Either way it’s not good law as it sets against a major principal of the general presumption of innocence.

“Another clause of particular concern has such a broad provision relating to ‘possessing things’ such as needles and syringes, that it could criminalise the activities of doctors, nurses, veterinarians and even diabetics.

“It’s ironic that current revisions of our drug laws contain such high level provisions they seem out of touch with reality.

“Our recommendation to the government is that the language of the Bill needs to be reviewed and clarified and must ensure citizens are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”